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Nahon, Saharovich, & Trotz

Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Rules in Favor of NST Client

On March 1, 2018, in Carpenter v. Southern Transit, the Tennessee’ Workers Compensation Appeals Board affirmed the trial court’s ruling in favor of NST’s client that had suffered an on the job injury. Following his injury, our client’s medical treatment recommended by his doctor was denied by multiple insurance carriers, leading to NST attorney Monica R. Rejaei filing for an expedited hearing on the issue, which was granted. The decision was appealed, with the insurance companies claiming our client’s injuries were not caused by his employment.

Under Tennessee workers’ compensation law, “injury” is defined to mean “an injury arising out of and in the course of employment that causes either disablement or death of the employee and shall include occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of employment that cause either disablement or death of the employee.” To determine whether one’s condition constitutes an on the job “injury” compensable through workers’ compensation, relevant evidence can include the employee’s medical records and testimony of the treating physician.

Our client is a 66 year old resident of Memphis, Tennessee, employed as a truck driver for a logistics company. Occasionally, he would drive trucks belonging to another trucking company in the area when his primary truck was being serviced. In November 2016, while operating a truck belonging to the other company but within the course and scope of his employment, our client was transferring a trailer to another driver and bringing said driver’s trailer back to the hub. During this travel, the driver’s seat in the tractor was broken, continuously striking him in the lower back throughout his travel. He reported this injury to his supervisor that day. Just over one week later, as our client was stepping out of the truck belonging to the other company, he felt a sharp pain in his lower back that radiated down into his legs. This incident was once again reported to his supervisor.

Following these incidents, our client sought medical treatment with his primary care physician, where x-rays were performed, medications given, and MRI testing was ordered. Following the MRI, his employer’s workers’ compensation carrier sent him to an orthopedic doctor, who diagnosed him with a lower back injury following his complaints of severe numbness. The doctor believed our client’s injury was related to his employment and recommended epidural steroid injections in order to help him recover.

Unfortunately, the insurance company refused to approve the treatment prescribed by the doctor, instead arguing the truck owner’s insurance should pay. The truck owner’s insurance began paying for medical care, but one month later, denied the injections recommended by the doctor, arguing there was no medical causation relating the diagnosis to our client’s employment.

With multiple insurance companies refusing to provide our client with necessary medical benefits or temporary disability benefits for being unable to work, Ms. Rejaei took the deposition of our client’s treating physician, who reiterated his belief that the injury was work-related. Ms. Rejaei then filed for an expedited hearing with the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Ms. Rejaei cited well-settled Tennessee law that the authorized treating physician’s opinion regarding medical causation met the statutory definition of “injury” under Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-102(12), and thus, would yield this claim as compensable under the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act. Both insurance companies, on the other hand, stood by their denial of benefits. They continued to point the finger at each other and argued the injury was not related to employment, citing degenerative changes noted in the diagnostic test results. After the hearing, the trial judge with the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims sided with Ms. Rejaei and NST’s client, noting the legal standard for causation was met based on the doctor’s medical records and testimony that the injury was work-related, and that the truck owner should be responsible for the treatment.

The decision was then appealed. After reviewing the full record, pleadings, and prior testimony, the Appeals Board noted that our client’s doctor testified that the injury was more likely than not related to employment, which is the legal standard under Tennessee law. Accordingly, the Appeals Board found for NST’s client and affirmed the trial court’s ruling. This decision means that our client will be able to receive the medical treatment he needs to get better and get back to work.

In order to best serve clients who have been hurt at work, NST lawyers take pride in researching the law, staying up to date on key trends, and regularly attending continuing education seminars. For a free consultation with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers, call 800-529-4004 or complete our online form. We are available 24/7 to discuss your case and let you know how we may be able to help.