West Virginia Supreme Court Affirms That Workers Must Seek Medical Attention As Soon As Possible to Obtain Workers Compensation Benefits

paintbrush-4-1340017-m.jpgThe West Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled that in order for a worker to receive workers compensation for an injury, the worker must seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The ruling came in a case where a woman applied for workers compensation after allegedly falling ill from inhaling paint fumes in her workplace. Kimberly Simons initially went to Jackson General Hospital in May 2010, complaining that she had a sore throat. She then returned two days later, after the symptoms had failed to subside and she was vomiting. During her second examination, Simons claimed that her symptoms were caused by inhaling fumes while brush painting signs at her workplace earlier in the month. The physician then diagnosed her with a partially obstructed airway and allergic reaction.

Simons then applied for workers compensation benefits based on this diagnosis, along with a note from another physician who had examined her, which stated that she had suffered an allergic reaction to the paint fumes. However, a third physician who examined Simons’s claim stated that he could not find any “objective” evidence that the paint fumes were the cause of Simons’s symptoms, given that there was a delay between the activity linked to the symptoms and the symptoms themselves. The physician noted that during that time, a different source might have caused Simons’s throat to swell.

Based on the report, the workers compensation claims administrator denied Simons’s claim. Simons then appealed her claim to the Office of Judges, which affirmed the claims administrator’s denial in August 2011. The Office of Judges found that Simons had not only failed to show that her illness was connected to her work, but that she also had a lengthy history with chronic allergies. The Board of Review upheld the Office of Judges’ decision, and Simons finally appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court justices affirmed the Board of Review’s decision, agreeing that, because Simons did not seek medical attention right away, there was no way to prove that the paint she used at work was the cause.

Such a decision is understandable, if frustrating, for a worker who believes that his or her illness can be traced to the workplace. Just because Simons did not have abundant evidence that her workplace activity was the cause does not mean that it was not the cause of her illness. Sometimes illness or injury from an activity does not reveal itself immediately, and could be mistaken for something else. Workers compensation claims adjusters are often loathe to provide benefits unless the case is completely clear-cut. When that happens, it is best to hire a West Virginia personal injury attorney to argue on your behalf so that you can get the relief you need.

The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.

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