Inability to work after accident shows aggravation of preexisting condition
Case name: Bank of America v. Robinson-McKnight, No. N12A-01-006 DCS (Del. Super. Ct. 08/23/12).
Ruling: The Delaware Superior Court held that a worker was entitled to benefits for the aggravation of her preexisting back injury.
What it means: In Delaware, the aggravation of a preexisting injury is compensable if the extent of the aggravation or acceleration of the injury can be measured.
Summary: A worker for a bank was sitting in her chair when the chair collapsed, and she fell to the floor. She heard a "pop" in her back and felt "excruciating" pain. She was unable to move for 45 minutes. She called her doctor the day of the accident and went for treatment the next day. She told the doctor about her fall at work. She had previously sought treatment for a back injury but said her pain was tolerable before the work incident. She returned to work but still experienced pain and numbness. After experiencing spasms at work, her doctor determined that she was unable to work. She continued treatment consisting of aqua therapy and pain management. The worker sought benefits. The Delaware Superior Court held that she was entitled to benefits for the aggravation of her preexisting injury.
The court found evidence demonstrating that although the worker's preexisting back condition was not asymptomatic it was not worsening before the work accident. Evidence suggested that the work accident was the "triggering event" that aggravated her back condition. She was able to perform her job full time before the work accident but was unable to work after the accident. Before the accident, she was diagnosed with lumbar radiculopathy. After the accident, she was diagnosed with lumbar radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, and spondylolysis with radiculopathy. Although her MRI results were similar before and after the accident, her doctor opined that the work accident exacerbated her condition.
Another doctor agreed that her treatment was reasonable and necessary but said it was difficult to attribute her symptoms to the work injury since she had similar complaints before the accident. The court found a causal relationship between her back condition and the work accident.
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October 29, 2012
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