In a recent case, a Florida court of appeals recently considered whether one employee’s workers’ compensation claim was a result of a workplace injury or a result of a preexisting condition. The employee claimed that she injured her neck at work while pushing a passenger in a wheelchair. Her employer paid her workers’ compensation benefits and authorized an orthopedic surgeon to treat her injury.
However, the employer later claimed that the injury was not a result of a workplace injury but was due to a pre-existing condition. The orthopedic surgeon believed that the major contributing cause of the employee’s neck pain was not the workplace injury but instead was a preexisting degeneration of the cervical spine. An independent medical examiner also examined the employee and determined that the workplace injury was not a “major contributing cause” of her condition.
Under state law, an employer is responsible only if the workplace injury is the major contributing cause of any resulting injuries. That means that the workplace injury has to be more than 50% responsible for the employee’s injury. It also has to be demonstrated by objective medical evidence.
At a hearing, after reviewing the employee’s medical records, the orthopedic surgeon testified that the workplace injury was not the major contributing cause of the employee’s condition. The surgeon testified that if the employee did not have any neck pain in recent years, he would have to conclude the accident was responsible for the new onset of symptoms. But he said that depended on the accuracy of the information provided. Thus, the court determined that the surgeon never testified that the employee’s workplace injury was a major contributing cause, and the court rejected the employee’s workers’ compensation claim.
Proving the Cause of the Injury in Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claims
In Georgia workers’ compensation claims, an essential part of the claim is that there is a causal connection between the employment and the injury. Under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1(4), a claimant must show the injury arose out of and in the course of their employment. Courts have explained that “arising out of” and “in the course of” are not synonymous, and a claimant must prove both. However, unlike in Florida, where a claimant must show that the employment was the major contributing cause, in Georgia, there is a lower standard. Specifically, a claimant must only show that the employment was a contributing proximate cause of the injury.
Have You Been Injured at Work?
If you were injured at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. At the Law Office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C., we are authorities on Georgia’s workers’ compensation law. Our Georgia law firm offers quality legal representation and responsive client service. We are friendly, approachable attorneys who take the time to talk to you about your concerns. For knowledgeable representation by experienced injury attorneys, you can rely on the law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 404-303-7770 or use our online form.