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He waited 5 months to get medical treatment: Will workers’ comp pay?

An employee’s claim that he was injured months ago and waited to get treatment can often raise suspicions on whether the injury is really work-related. How did a court rule in this case? 

William Boyko was an airway walker for Speed Mining LLC in West Virginia. Boyko says on July 13, 2015, he walked into a roof bolt and was knocked on his back.  The fall caused the back of his neck and arm to tingle.

An accident report was filed about the incident. The report says Boyko was walking out of a maintenance hole and hit his head on a roof bolt, causing a neck strain. Boyko says there were two witnesses to his fall, but there were no statements taken from co-workers.

Boyko sought treatment for neck pain on Dec. 2, 2015, more than four months after the incident. He said the pain had worsened in the previous three weeks due to a change in his job that required more heavy lifting. A doctor diagnosed lumbar and neck sprains.

A claims administrator rejected Boyko’s request for workers’ comp benefits. The West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Board of Review upheld the decision. It found the fact that Boyko didn’t seek treatment for almost five months was evidence against ruling the injury was compensable, even though he sought treatment within the required six-month time frame. Boyko appealed to a state court.

Speed Mining had argued that the fact Boyko was laid off before seeking treatment for his injury was evidence that an injury didn’t occur. Boyko was offered a job with a company that had bought Speed Mining, but he asked to be a part of upcoming layoffs because his new job duties aggravated his neck injury.

After reviewing the evidence, the appeals court reversed the ruling. The court said Boyko did show via persuasive evidence that he suffered a work injury in July 2015. He reported the injury to his supervisor and filed an incident report. He then had six months to seek treatment, and he did so within that time frame. When he sought medical treatment, he completed an employee’s report of injury with the physician’s section filled out by his doctor, indicating he had a neck sprain. In all, Boyko followed proper protocol. His case now goes back to the comp board to determine his benefits.

(William Boyko v. Speed Mining LLC, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, No. 17-1030, 3/21/18)

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