See if you’ve ever experienced this one: Weeks or months after an at-work incident, an employee says, “I think I hurt myself at work.” How do you know the injury is really work-related?
That was the situation in this case from Louisiana.
Angela Ashworth worked for Administaff as a merchandiser. One day while at a store, a 700-pound display fell on her and pinned her to the floor.
Ashworth suffered three fractures to her right ankle and underwent surgery. That injury wasn’t disputed. Workers’ comp paid for it.
Almost three months after the display fell on her, medical records show Ashworth also complained of neck, shoulder and lower back pain.
Why no mention until three months later of the other pain?
Ashworth says for the first two weeks after the surgery, medication dulled the other pain.
She also claimed that she tried to address her other pains with various doctors, but they would insist that they could only treat her for the ankle injury.
On top of all that, Ashworth was involved in a car crash four years earlier. At first she didn’t tell any doctors about that crash. Then she said the only injury she received was a bump on the head from hitting the dashboard (she was in the passenger seat).
However, medical records show the emergency room physician who treated her after the crash noted low back pain, neck sprain and abdominal pain.
Here’s another complication: different opinions from doctors on whether the neck, shoulder and back pains were work-related. One doctor said it was. Two others said it wasn’t.
After a workers’ comp judge denied her request for benefits for the neck, shoulder and back pain, Ashworth took her case to a state appeals court.
The court said medical records didn’t support her testimony that she told doctors about her upper body pain prior to three months after the incident in the store.
The court said Ashworth didn’t prove that her additional pains were work-related. For that reason, she didn’t receive workers’ comp benefits for them.
(Ashworth v. Administaff, Court of Appeals of LA, Third Circuit, No. 10-0318, 10/6/10.) You can read the court’s opinion here.
What do you think about the court’s ruling? How do you deal with “late” reports of alleged work-related injuries? Let us know in the Comments Box below.