North Carolina Appellate Court Reverses Revocation of Benefits to Injured Meat Cutter

Once you are awarded workers’ compensation benefits, it is important that you protect your right to continue receiving those benefits for as long as you are legally entitled to receive them. Many insurers will attempt to terminate benefit payments after an initial award. As seasoned North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers, we are standing by and ready to help you protect your right to benefits at any stage of the proceedings.

In a recent workers’ compensation appeal, the worker was a 68-year-old man who was injured while working as a meat cutter. The man’s job description provided that people in his position must be able to lift up to 100 pounds on a routine basis and must be able to reach from 6 inches to 72 inches. The description also listed stooping, kneeling, crouching, balancing, and climbing as regular activities. The man sustained an injury to his lower back, right hip, and right extremities while lifting a box of meat from the top of a stack of boxes.

The man received medical treatment that showed serious injuries, including multilevel disc bulging, spinal and foraminal stenosis, and spondylolysis. The employer and its insurer admitted compensability of the injury and began paying temporary total disability benefits. The worker then underwent a functional capacity evaluation which determined that he could not return to his job as a meat cutter but that he was able to perform light physical demand work. He was later determined to have reached maximum medical improvement, but he claimed he continued to experience serious pain in his lower back and right leg. Over the course of the next few years, he continued to receive medical treatment and used a cane occasionally to provide assistance with walking.

At some point, the defendant’s insurer requested that the worker undergo a vocational rehabilitation examination to determine his current vocational potential. The doctor performing the examination concluded that it would be difficult to locate a job for the plaintiff in the open market. A few years later, the defendant filed a request to terminate its obligation to pay benefits on the basis that the worker was no longer disabled. The worker contested this determination and requested that the defendants pay for all of his medical treatment. After a hearing, the presiding commissioner concluded that the worker remained disabled and that continued payment of temporary total disability benefits and medical expenses was appropriate.

The defendants appealed, and the Full Commission reversed the Commissioner’s decision in part and upheld it in part. It concluded that the plaintiff was entitled to payment of medical expenses, but not continued benefits because he failed to show that looking for work was a futile endeavor. The worker appealed and the reviewing court agreed with his assignments of error. The appellate court remanded the action and stated that the defendant had the burden of showing that the worker could find suitable jobs and that the worker was capable of obtaining one taking into account his physical and vocational training limits.

If you were injured on the job, it is essential that you seek guidance and counseling from a legal professional who has experience navigating the workers’ compensation system. Whether you simply want to understand your rights or are facing a revocation of your benefits, we will fight zealously to ensure that you receive the just outcome that you deserve. To set up your free consultation call us at 1-844-817-8058 or contact us online to get started.

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