Some exact details about a work incident and the worker’s previous injuries were questioned in this case. Did an appeals court reverse an order that the worker shouldn’t get workers’ comp benefits?
Robert Adkins worked for SWVA Inc. in West Virginia as a crane operator.
On Aug. 3, 2013, the crane malfunctioned, and the cab he was standing in was jostled. He continued working but filled out an incident report. Later that day he began to feel sore so he sought medical treatment. A doctor diagnosed Adkins with knee, leg, back and neck sprains and ordered him not to work for a week. A physical therapist diagnosed acute sprain throughout Adkins’ spine and scheduled him for PT. The PT record said the crane cab fell 5 to 10 feet during the incident.
A mechanical engineer investigated and said the fall brake for the cab tripped, and the maximum fall distance would have been 5.5 feet if the cab were raised to full position. But in this incident, the engineer concluded the cab didn’t fall at all.
A claims administrator rejected Adkins’ request for workers’ comp benefits for range of motion loss in his neck due to pain. Adkins appealed.
A doctor performed an independent medical evaluation and diagnosed Adkins with chronic neck pain which she said wasn’t caused by his occupation or the crane incident. She said his chronic neck pain was the result of a pre-existing condition, including cervical degenerative disc disease which was documented as early as 2007.
In an affadavit, the primary technician assigned to service and maintain cranes for SWVA said since the crane brake didn’t engage automatically, the cab would have fallen a short distance before stopping. The technician said it was reasonable to assume Adkins’ cab would have been jarred by the sudden stop.
The Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges affirmed the claims administrator’s decision. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Review also affirmed the decision.
Adkins continued to fight the decision by taking his claim to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
New injury was possible
The appeals court noted:
- Adkins reported the incident to his supervisors as soon as it occurred
- He filed an incident report the same day
- He sought medical treatment that evening
- His account of the incident has been consistent
- Although there were discrepancies about how far his cab fell, evidence says it was at least jostled and shook
- Adkins does have pre-existing neck problems and wasn’t forthcoming about them, but
- A previous neck injury doesn’t prevent him from suffering a new, work-related injury.
The court ruled Adkins has provided enough credible evidence to collect workers’ comp benefits for the crane incident.
(Robert A. Adkins v. SWVA Inc., West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, No. 15-0836, 9/12/16)