What Do You Think: Did Fall From Chair Cause Therapist’s Injuries?

Frank Ferreri

Jackson, MS (WorkersCompensation.com) – When an employee has an injury on the job and later ends up in a car crash, how tough is it for her to connect her pain to the work incident?

A Mississippi court recently had to balance several doctors’ reports against a worker’s statements in determining whether she had a permanent disability.

A respiratory therapist for a medical center experienced a work-related injury to her back, neck, and wrist when a chair began to collapse on her. Although her employer and its carrier admitted the compensability of the injury, a dispute developed about the extent of the disability that resulted.

About a week after the incident, the therapist visited a doctor for back and neck pain. Later, she saw another doctor, who observed that the therapist had full range of motion of her neck. The second doctor noted that the therapist was morbidly obese and recommended physical therapy.

After this, the therapist was involved in a car accident and saw both doctors again. She underwent a functional capacity evaluation, and the second doctor placed the therapist at maximum medical improvement.

The therapist then underwent an employer medical examination, which concluded that the work injury was “of minimal trauma.” This doctor agreed with the FCE and also determined that the therapist reached MMI.

The EME doctor opined that the therapist could return to work without restrictions.

At hearing on the therapist’s claim for benefits, an administrative judge determined that the therapist didn’t experience a permanent disability due to her work injury and didn’t require further treatment for it.

According to the AJ, the therapist had “a number of health issues” and “these are personal issues and not a result of the … work injury.”

The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed the AJ’s order, prompting the therapist to appeal to court.

Mississippi courts will reverse a WCC decision if they find no “substantial credible evidence” to support the factual determination that the commission made.

Were the facts enough to show that the therapist’s injury occurred from the work incident?

A. Yes. The therapist experienced an injury when the chair collapsed, and the medical center and its carrier admitted that it was compensable.

B. No. The doctor’s assessments that the other health issues – including the car accident – caused the therapist’s pain issues supported the AJ’s and WCC’s decisions.

If you picked B, you sided with the court Jones v. University of Mississippi Medical Center, No. 2020-WC-00412-COA (Miss. Ct. App. 01/05/21), which upheld the rulings against the therapist. According to the court, it was “plain that all the evidence … was analyzed” to determine that therapist experienced no permanent disability as a result of the work injury.

Although the therapist’s medical records showed that she underwent tests for “increased low back pain,” she sought this treatment after the collision. Additionally, the therapist’s treating spine specialist as well as the employer’s doctor agreed that she experienced no permanent disability as a result of the work injury.

This feature does not provide legal advice

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