Officer shows fall on stairs contributed or caused back injury
Case name: Rose v. N.C. Department of Correction, No. COA11-780 (N.C. Ct. App. 03/06/12, unpublished).
In an unpublished decision, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that an officer was entitled to benefits for his back condition.
What it means: In North Carolina, where a back injury arises out of the course of employment and is the direct result of a specific traumatic incident, an "injury by accident" includes any disabling physical injury arising out of and causally related to the incident.
Summary: A correctional officer fell forward while walking up stairs and struck his knee. That night, he sought treatment for pain in his knee. The next month, he reported pain in his right foot, left leg, and back. An MRI revealed a disk protrusion. The officer underwent back surgery, but he continued to have pain and required narcotic medication. He sought workers' compensation for his back condition. The employer denied compensation. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to benefits.
The court rejected the employer's argument that the officer's back injury was not compensable because it developed gradually over a period of time. Although the officer did not report back pain until six weeks after his fall, it was undisputed that he fell and suffered a knee injury at work. He did not fail to establish a specific traumatic incident.
The court concluded that the fall was a "contributing or causative factor" in his back injury. The employer asserted that the officer's medical expert guessed or speculated as to the cause of the injury. The court disagreed, stating that the record established that the medical expert concluded to a "reasonable degree of medical certainty" that the officer's fall was the cause of his back pain.
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May 10, 2012
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