West Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Denial of Hotel Employee’s Workers Compensation Claim

hotel.jpegWest Virginia’s Supreme Court recently ruled that a hotel employee who claimed to have suffered an injury on the job was not eligible to collect workers compensation insurance. The reason, the court explained, was because evidence showed that the employee was not injured on the job, but while at home.

Cora Mariani originally claimed that she injured her shoulder in September 2008 while working at The Greenbrier hotel in White Sulphur Springs. However, in an occupational injury report filed in February 2009, Mariana claimed to have injured her shoulder after falling at her family farm in November 2008.

Mariani applied for workers compensation insurance benefits and was denied by a claims administrator in March 2009, who stated that her injury happened on Mariani’s farm, not while she was at work. The Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges affirmed the claims administrator’s decision in July 2010, and the Workers Compensation Board of Review upheld the Office of Judges’ order in January 2011.

In her appeal, Mariani argued that the farm injury was minor, and that it is unclear whether it aggravated her workplace injury from September. Mariani also argued that she filed a timely workers compensation claim when she was injured in February 2009. The Greenbrier, meanwhile, argued that Mariani’s injury in September was minor and that at the time, Mariani sought no treatment for it.

The West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the Office of Judges’ decision, which found that there were several discrepancies in Mariani’s accounts of the injury. For instance, at one time Mariani claimed to have injured her tailbone, but her medical records showed that it was her shoulder. Medical documentation also showed that Mariani’s primary injury took place on her family farm.

It may be that Mariani wanted to get worker benefits to cover her for an injury that took place at home. However, it is not unusual for people injured on the job to believe that their injury was “minor,” only to find out later that the injury was actually more serious and extensive. The memorandum decision issued by the West Virginia Supreme Court does not provide any information about the cause and extent of Mariani’s injuries in September 2008, so one cannot say whether the Office of Judges erred in its decision.

However, if Mariani’s account was correct, and she was seriously injured at work in September 2008, her mistake was not getting a prompt evaluation and filling out an injury report as soon as possible. (This article states that she did, but it appears from the Supreme Court’s decision that she waited until February 2009.) Then Mariani would have documented proof of the nature and type of injury she sustained. The longer a worker waits to file a workers compensation claim, the harder it is to prove that the injury at issue was caused on the job. It is entirely possible that Mariani’s farm injury did aggravate a pre-existing injury sustained at work, but without documentation, the claims administrator found it all-too easy to reject the claim.

If you are injured at work, no matter how minor, report it. As soon as you think that it could be worse than you initially thought, seek an evaluation and report it. Be sure to note any pre-existing injuries, but also how things have worsened since your work injury. The more documentation you have, the more medical personnel back you up, the less likely you are to have your claim rejected. Contact an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney to find out more.