Injured on the Job? If You Want Workers’ Compensation Benefits in West Virginia, You Have to Prove It – Price v. Saunders Staffing

In order to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for an injury, you have to prove that the injury occurred on the job. As a recent case out of the state Supreme Court shows, this burden of proof goes beyond just saying that the injury happened at work.

gavel-952313-mMr. Price was working as a laborer in August 2013 when he alleged he injured his back. He said he was throwing wet tents into a truck when he started experiencing pain in his lower back that radiated down one of his legs. Price went to an emergency room one day later, and he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and a herniated disc.

A claims administrator rejected Price’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits, finding that there was no evidence to show that Price sustained his injury at work. His supervisor at the time completed an accident report in which three witnesses said they didn’t notice anything wrong with Price on the day in question. They also said he was “goofing off” at the end of the day. Price was laughing, jumping up and down in the truck, and attempting to block tents from entering the truck. The supervisor additionally said he worked with Price throughout the day and saw him jumping in and out of trucks with no complaints about pain. He said he asked the staffing company that Price worked for to terminate Price’s employment after Price failed to show up for work the next day. A staffing agency rep said Price didn’t mention the injury until after he was informed that he’d been fired.

The Office of Administrative Judges held a hearing in October 2013. Price testified that his back had started to hurt while loading the tents early in the day and that the pain increased as the day wore on. He said he told the supervisor about the injury. Price also said he called the supervisor the next morning when he woke up in pain and informed the supervisor that he wouldn’t be coming in for work. He denied laughing, joking, and playing around at the end of the shift.

The OAJ agreed with the claims administrator, finding that none of the 10 people that Price had worked with corroborated his version of the events. Instead, four workers – including the supervisor – said Price worked throughout the day without any complaints of pain and was horsing around at the end of the shift.

The Supreme Court affirmed the decision on further appeal, saying there was no evidence to show that Price suffered his injury at work. “Multiple affidavits state that he did not appear to be injured, did not report an injury, and engaged in horseplay at the end of his shift,” the Court noted. “It is also significant that he did not report a work-related injury until after he was informed that his position had been terminated due to his behavior.” As a result, the Court said Price wasn’t entitled to benefits.

As this case makes clear, the law puts the burden on an injured worker to prove that he or she sustained an injury on the job in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, the West Virginia back injury lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm can help. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Related blog posts:

West Virginia Supreme Court: Drill Worker Caused Own Accident, Not Entitled to Money Damages – Ball v. A.L.L. Construction

West Virginia Workers’ Compensation and Preexisting Conditions – Steyer v. Alliance Coal

Workplace Accidents, Employer Liability and ‘Deliberate Intent’ – Cunningham v. Felman Production