Injured Elderly Worker in North Carolina Worker’s Compensation Case
After a hard-fought battle by litigators at Copeley, Johnson & Groninger, justice was served for an elderly gentleman who, for years, worked through the tremendous back pain. After a full hearing and extensive testimony, the Industrial Commission ruled in the worker’s favor and awarded him workers’ compensation benefits, including medical benefits and years of accrued disability benefits.
Unfortunately, in many workers’ compensation cases, old-fashioned grit and determination do not pay off, because employers and insurance companies point to the employee’s ability to work as evidence that the worker is not disabled. In this case, attorneys Valerie Johnson and Drew Culler successfully convinced the Industrial Commission that this exemplary worker — still working at age 70 after a back surgery – deserved and was entitled to workers’ compensation.
The employee hurt his back at work in 2010 but so adamantly wanted to keep working through his pain – in a job requiring heavy physical labor, no less – that he asked his doctor not to assign him any restrictions. For nearly six years, he worked steadily while, according to the testimony of doctors and co-workers, his back condition continued to worsen. When he suffered another work-related accident to his back in 2016, his employer – yes, the same one that had benefited from his years of diligent, hard work – denied his claim and refused to provide medical treatment. The employer and insurer claimed that, since he had been able to work all along, he must have fully healed from his first injury. They even attacked his credibility, claiming that he had made up his second injury just to collect benefits.
Ms. Johnson and Mr. Culler refuted those defenses at the hearing by presenting extensive evidence of the employee’s impeccable character and honesty. They also presented expert medical testimony to support the complicated legal theory that the employee was entitled to compensation for both his first and second injuries under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act and interpreting case law.
This decision is more than a win for this one client; it is a win for hard workers across North Carolina, and an assurance that justice can be served, even if it takes some fighting to get there.