Little Rock, AR (WorkersCompensation.com) – Pro tip: Anyone who claims to be “barely able to move” from a workplace injury would likely mention it to a doctor before trying to convince a court that the injury warrants additional medical benefits.
In Potter v. Kelly Services Inc., 2020 Ark. App. 444 (Ark. Ct. App. 09/30/20), a worker’s failure to mention back pain during five visits to the doctor scuttled his later arguments that months after the fact he continued to have pain from an on-the-job injury he experienced with a temporary staffing company.
Reports of Pain
While unloading furniture from a truck without assistance, the worker experienced shooting pain down his right side and had difficulty walking. The company placed him on restricted duty for seven days. The worker did not respond to the company’s offers of modified-duty work, eventually abandoned his position with the company, and accepted employment elsewhere.
Initially, the company accepted the injury as compensable but later controverted the worker’s claim for additional medical treatment. The company cited the eight-month period during which the worker did not receive treatment in its denial of benefits.
In response, the worker reported that he attended multiple medical visits at the Veteran’s Administration. However, the records didn’t show that he mentioned his back pain during five visits to VA doctors. According to the worker, he didn’t know if he was allowed to report work-related issues to the VA.
Eventually, the worker did describe lower back pain to a VA doctor, mentioning an earlier fall he experienced as well as a general remark about “lifting a lot.”
On the worker’s claim for benefits, an administrative law judge concluded that the worker was not credible, noting that he secured employment with two subsequent employers and denied having issues that would limit his ability to perform work.
Arkansas’ workers’ compensation commission adopted the ALJ’s decision, denying his claim for additional medical benefits. The worker appealed to court.
Additional Medical Benefits
Under Arkansas law, employers must “promptly provide” for injured employees medical services that are “reasonably necessary in connection with” a work-related injury.
The court held that the worker didn’t establish that his back problems were a continuation of the “minor back injury” he experienced while unloading furniture. The court pointed out that despite contending he could “barely move,” the worker didn’t mention back pain on five occasions at the VA.
And although the worker eventually mentioned pain to a VA doctor, “[t]his singe mention of his back … does not negate the vast inconsistencies in his testimony and the absence of evidence suggesting his current back problems are related” to the workplace injury.
The court also pointed out that despite arguing he could “barely move,” the worker managed to perform “a variety of full-time, labor-intensive tasks” after seeking employment elsewhere and that he did not indicate he had restrictions to prevent him from undertaking these tasks.
Thus, the court upheld the ALJ’s and WCC’s denial of additional medical benefits to the worker.