Back Injuries and NC Workers’ Compensation

Back Injuries and NC Workers’ Compensation
By Kimberly BishopJune 10, 2019

This post discusses Back injuries and NC Workers’ Compensation. Unfortunately for workers, back injuries are the third most frequent part of the body injured at work. In 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers hurt their backs 148,780 times. This equates to 407 workers injuring their back every day in the United States.

Given how often back injuries happen at work, NC Workers’ Compensation Statutes include more than one way to find a back injury compensable:

  1. Injury by Accident” which is the default for all NC Workers’ Compensation claims and must happen within the course and scope of your employment. Quote from the NC Worker's Compensation Statutes: “Injury and personal injury" shall mean only injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment, and shall not include a disease in any form, except where it results naturally and unavoidably from the accident.”
  1. Specific Traumatic Incident” when the resulting injury is to the back. Quote from the NC Worker's Compensation Statutes: “With respect to back injuries, however, where injury to the back arises out of and in the course of the employment and is the direct result of a specific traumatic incident of the work assigned, "injury by accident" shall be construed to include any disabling physical injury to the back arising out of and causally related to such incident.”

But, what is a Specific Traumatic Incident? The statute doesn’t actually give us what this means; however, over the course of the years since this change was made to the statute in 1983 the courts have defined what this means through examples.

One of these examples happened in Richards v. Town of Valdese, where the courts held that a firefighter working for 15 hours in full gear suffered a compensable back injury when he felt back pain later that day. The specific traumatic injury can be an event or series of events that happened within a cognizable time that lead to a back injury and not just a single accident.

A back injury can even be considered compensable as a specific traumatic incident, even when the symptoms appear in a different part of the body, so long as a doctor can show that the symptoms were caused by the back injury. In Ruffin v. Compass Group USA, the injured worker was lifting a heavy box and felt pain in her left shoulder. The doctor was able to show that the shoulder symptoms came from herniated disks in her back.

You can even have a compensable back injury where the pain isn’t felt immediately. In Beam v. Floyd’s Creek Baptist Church, a church secretary was carrying a heavy load up stairs and suffered an injury but felt no pain until the next morning. The court said this was compensable because the pain is a result of the specific traumatic injury. You just have to show that the injury happened in a cognizable time frame from when the pain was felt.

All in all, back injuries and NC workers’ compensation can be intimidating, but with the help of a NC Workers’ Compensation Attorney, you can better understand if you have a workers’ compensation case and how to prepare for your claim.

The Bishop Law Firm represents clients injured on the job in Raleigh, Cary, Durham and surrounding areas of North Carolina. We do not get paid unless we win, and we offer free case evaluations. Call us today, (919) 615-3095.

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