Can an employee who was injured while having a seizure at work collect workers’ compensation benefits or would such an incident not be considered work-related?
If the incident occurred while the employee was on the worksite, on duty and at an assigned work station then the injury is compensable, according to the Louisiana Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Standing at computer station when seizure struck
In Woodard v. Brookshire Grocery Co., a pharmacy technician was injured Sept. 26, 2019, when she fell while having a seizure. She was standing at her computer station at the pharmacy counter when the incident occurred.
As a result of the fall, the technician suffered injuries to her right shoulder and was later diagnosed with an interior dislocation-relocation injury, a fracture and a tendon tear. A neurologist confirmed she’d had a seizure and the entire incident had been captured on surveillance cameras.
On December 23, 2019, the technician had surgery on her shoulder and on December 30, 2019, she was restricted from work until her next evaluation.
Employer: Injury didn’t arise from employment
The technician had filed a workers’ compensation claim May 13, 2020, but the employer disputed it, arguing that her injury didn’t arise from her employment.
A workers’ compensation judge found March 18, 2021, that the technician had been injured in the course of her employment, her fall arose out of her employment and her injury was compensable.
The employer appealed, claiming the judge erred in failing to require proof that the seizure was work-related.
On premises, on the clock, at work station = work-related
According to the appeals court, “An employment-related accident is an unexpected or unforeseen actual, identifiable, precipitous event happening suddenly or violently, with or without human fault, and directly producing at the time objective findings of an injury which is more than simply a gradual deterioration or progressive degeneration.”
Further, the court states that an accident arises out of employment “if the conditions or obligations of the employment caused the employee in the course of her employment to be at the place of the accident at the time the accident occurred.” When an employee is “squarely within the course of her employment, virtually any risk has been considered arising out of employment.”
Bottom line: The court said that at the time of the incident, the technician was on her employer’s premises, on the time clock and standing at an assigned work location. The fact that her fall wasn’t directly caused by a work-related activity doesn’t negate the fact that the incident occurred “in the course of and arising out of her employment.”