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Court Denies Worker’s Claim for Back Surgery, Finding It Was Unrelated to Workplace Groin Injury

In many Georgia workers’ compensation cases, even when one injury is covered, there is an issue of whether other injuries are related and covered under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act. In a recent case, one state’s supreme court found that although a worker’s groin injury was covered under the workers’ compensation program, his back injury was not.

SpineThe Facts of the Case

The employee was working at an energy services company, delivering and setting up equipment. One day, he was transporting equipment from Wyoming to Nebraska. The equipment included hazardous materials, and he was required to have a sign on the back of his truck warning that hazardous materials were on board. The sign was on the truck when he left, but when he stopped shortly after beginning the journey, he saw that the sign had fallen off. The employee called his supervisor, who met up with him and helped him locate the sign. The employee and his supervisor then put the sign in the back of the supervisor’s truck. The sign weighed about 100 pounds and was in an 8.5-foot metal frame. As the two were lifting the sign into the truck, the employee stood on his toes to lift it into the truck, and he felt a sharp shooting pain down the right side of his groin.

The employee continued to Nebraska, but when he completed his assignment, he returned to his home in Idaho and saw his primary care physician. He was diagnosed with a right inguinal hernia. His employer covered his injury to his right groin.

Subsequently, the worker underwent surgery and was supposed to return to work about a month later. However, he felt pain from his back down into his buttocks and sometimes into his thigh, and he brought it up to his doctor. He underwent physical therapy and then had an MRI done. After the MRI, he was diagnosed with a right S1 radiculopathy due to a disc herniation and was eventually recommended for another surgery. His employer denied his request to cover the surgery, finding the back injury was not related to the original groin injury. The state’s workers’ compensation division denied his benefits claim, and he appealed.

The state’s supreme court found that the decision denying coverage of the back injury was supported by the evidence. Although the worker’s expert testified that he believed his L5-S1 disc injury was work-related from his inguinal hernia, the court found that his conclusion was speculative, and his conclusion did not account for the delay in the onset of his back-related symptoms. Given the evidence presented, the decision was supported by the evidence, and the court affirmed the decision denying coverage of his back injury.

In workers’ compensation cases, the term “injury” means an injury “by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment.” “Arising out of” means that there must be a causal connection between the conditions of the employment and the injury. “In the course of” refers to the time, place, and circumstances of the injury. The employee has the burden of proving that an injury arose out of and in the course of the employment.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been injured in a work-related event, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits. The Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. has decades of experience in workers’ compensation claims, and we are able to help you manage the complicated procedural requirements in workers’ compensation claims. Our attorneys provide clients with quality legal representation and responsive client service. To obtain a free initial consultation, call us at 404-303-7770 or contact us through our online form.

More Blog Entries:

Stuntman Dies After On-Set Accident near Atlanta, August 8, 2017, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

Navigating Appeals in Georgia Workers’ Compensation Cases, September 6, 2017, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog