West Virginia Supreme Court Affirms Decision to Permit Workers’ Compensation Claim

cement-mixer-118250-m.jpgRecently, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review to grant the claim of an injured worker, David Shofstahl. Shofstahl had suffered his workplace injury in May 2011.

Shofstahl was a laborer and mason foreman for EIN Management. In May 2011, he was lifting a mortar mixer from one of the trucks when he felt a pop in his back. Shofstahl first sought treatment at the Lewis Gale Allegheny Hospital, where he indicated that he had a pre-existing history of intervertebral disc disease. Shofstahl was also treated separately by Dr. Karl Smith, who ordered an MRI that revealed a disc extrusion and a disc protrusion. Shofstahl then filled out a workers compensation application based on Dr. Smith’s findings.

Two weeks later, the claims administrator denied Shofstahl’s application, claiming that he had a history of back problems that went back to 2004. The claims administrator also noted that Shofstahl had seen Dr. Smith for back problems in April 2011 for degenerative disc disease. Shofstahl appealed, and in March 2012, the Office of Judges reversed the claims administrator’s decision and found that Shofstahl was eligible for compensation. The pre-existing degenerative changes in his lower black did not prevent him from filing a successful workers compensation claim. Shofstahl worked despite the condition, and experienced a new onset of pain, including a disc bulge that had not appeared in earlier MRIs. The Office of Judges found that EIN Management had not refuted any of Shofstahl’s evidence, including conclusions by Dr. Smith that the recent disc bulge was work related.

EIN Management appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review, which upheld the Office of Judges’ findings. In affirming the Board of Review’s decision, the West Virginia Supreme Court found that Shofstahl had provided sufficient evidence that he had suffered a lower back injury during the course of, and due to, his employment. While Shofstahl’s medical history showed pre-existing back problems, his MRI after the injury showed new damage. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found that Shofstahl’s account was consistent, he had the confirmation of a co-worker, and that EIN had not provided evidence to refute Shofstahl’s claims. Therefore, the Board of Review’s decision, stating that Shofstahl had a valid claim, was confirmed.

The decision is a victory for any worker with pre-existing conditions who is injured on the job. It would be much harder for an injured worker to receive workers compensation if he or she had to clear a high hurdle of proving that there was never any pre-existing injury. As long as the worker can prove that the most recent injury was caused by the workplace accident, he or she should be entitled to receive workers compensation payments until the time he or she can return to work.

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.

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