North Carolina Appellate Court Affirms Award of Death Benefits Following Work-Related Stomach Injury

Work-related injuries are difficult, but work-related deaths are a catastrophic situation. The North Carolina workers’ compensation system provides benefits for injured workers who lose their lives as a result of a work accident. While you are busy coping with the sudden loss and overwhelming grief, we will fight on your behalf to make sure that your family receives the outcome it deserves.

In an opinion from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, an insurance company appealed a decision from the North Carolina Industrial Commission finding that an injured worker’s death was directly related to and a consequence of his employment. In 2000, the man suffered an injury to his groin and abdomen while lifting a tire. The employer’s workers’ compensation carrier initially accepted liability for the accident and the man started receiving temporary total disability benefits.

The worker then underwent a series of medical treatments including surgeries and pain management prescriptions. Despite these efforts, the man’s condition worsened and he reported experiencing severe side effects from his opiate pain relief medications. He also reported abdominal issues including chronic constipation. In 2012, a tumor was found in his bladder and he was diagnosed with cancer. In 2013, he reported to the emergency room with difficulty urinating and tenderness in his stomach. A few months later, he reported to the emergency room again with worsening symptoms and bowel obstruction. He underwent emergency surgery to remove the obstruction but never regained consciousness, eventually passing away.

Following the worker’s passing, his wife filed a request for death benefits, resulting in the award of compensation. The defendants challenged the finding on the basis that the judge did not have enough evidence to support a finding that the death was related to this injury and his employment.

On review, the appellate court affirmed the entire award of benefits. It reviewed substantial evidence in the record including a number of reports from doctors who treated the worker and expert witnesses. To find causation, the court must identify enough evidence to support a finding that the work-related injury was the primary cause and contributing factor to the decedent’s death. The worker’s long-term use of narcotic medication to manage his pain from the injury led to constipation, which ultimately contributed to his death. But for the worker’s need to take pain medication, he would not have battled chronic constipation and eventually cancer.

If you were hurt at work and believe that you are entitled to benefits, or if you lost a loved one due to a work-related injury, contact us today to start learning more about your right to workers’ compensation benefits. There are countless rules to follow and hurdles that you must overcome before you will be awarded benefits, and insurance companies often challenge awards. A seasoned work injury lawyer by your side can help ensure that everyone treats you fairly and that you receive the outcome that you deserve in an efficient and timely manner. Our seasoned team of work injury lawyers offers a free consultation so that we can discuss your situation and whether we are able to help you. Call us now at 844-817-8058 or contact us online.