The West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a decision by the state Workers’ Compensation Board of Review that found an employee’s injury could not be traced to the workplace, and thus the employee did not have a workers compensation claim.
Melissa Stephen filed a claim for workers compensation in December 2010, claiming that she had been injured during the course of her employment. Stephen claimed to have kneeled down to retrieve a bag from the bottom rack of a shelf. When she rose back up, she hit her head and then fell backwards. Stephen claimed to have lain on the floor for a lengthy period of time until one of her coworkers found her. The coworker allegedly told Stephen that she heard the noise caused by the fall, and that Stephen had been unconscious for roughly 10 minutes. Stephen stated that she did not seek medical attention, but instead finished her shift. She did not seek medical attention for another week because, she claimed, she needed the money. However, she claims to have informed her supervisor, who in turn never offered her a workers compensation application to complete. Stephen’s family physician took her off of work, and she then allegedly requested another workers compensation application. The supervisor told her that she would fill it out for her.
Stephen’s medical records showed a history of neck pain, headaches, blurred vision, and dizziness. She had also been in a car accident at an undisclosed point in the past. The claims administrator denied Stephen’s claim in January 2011. Several months later, Stephen had an independent medical evaluation performed in July 2011. The physician claimed to have reviewed footage from the surveillance video and could not see evidence of Stephen hitting her head. He noted that while Stephen had a history of neck problems, she never reported any on a work-related injury questionnaire.
Stephen appealed, and the Office of Judges reversed the claims administrator’s decision in December 2011. The Office of Judges found that the surveillance video was not reliable evidence because the time and date stamp showed that the video had two gaps, lasting one minute and 30 second respectively. Because the physician’s assessment was based on the video, the Office of Judges found his opinion to carry no weight. The Office of Judges ultimately ruled that just because an employee has been injured in the past does not mean he or she did not get injured on the job, and the Stephens’s claim is compensable.
Stephen’s employer appealed, and the Board of Review reversed the Office of Judges’ decision and reinstated the claim administrator’s. The Board claimed that Stephen had failed to meet the burden of proof to establish that she sustained an injury in the course of her employment. Using her delay in seeking medical attention, her past history of neck pain, and the surveillance evidence, the Board determined that her claim did not merit compensation.
The West Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the Board’s decision, finding that the Board’s reasoning was met by ample evidence. It just demonstrates how important it is for employees to seek medical attention as soon as possible when they are injured on the job, because failure to do so will be used as evidence against them.
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 personal injury attorney, contact us today.