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Court ruled claimant’s spinal injury was not work-related. Nock v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., 75 N.Y.S.3d 330 (N.Y. App. Div. 2018)


Nock v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ., 75 N.Y.S.3d 330 (N.Y. App. Div. 2018) is the result of the Workers’ Compensation Board ruling against a claimant seeking benefits for a spinal injury allegedly sustained while performing her duties as a school lunch helper. The case, filed on August 24, 2016, involved a claim of injury to the spinal cord, lower back, legs, feet, and thighs. The claimant argued that these injuries were a result of her work activities, including standing, cleaning tables, and lifting heavy pans. However, the Board denied the claim, citing a lack of proof of a causal relationship between the injury and her employment.

Background Facts
The claimant, employed as a school lunch helper, filed for workers’ compensation benefits, claiming that her job duties had caused significant injuries. According to her, the repetitive tasks of standing, cleaning tables, and lifting heavy pans resulted in damage to her spinal cord, lower back, legs, feet, and thighs. She sought compensation for these injuries, which she asserted were directly related to her work environment.

The self-insured employer contested the claim, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the connection between the claimant’s injuries and her job duties. During the initial hearing, a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge ruled in favor of the claimant, finding the employer’s notice of controversy untimely and establishing the claim for a work-related back injury. However, upon administrative review, the Workers’ Compensation Board reversed this decision. The Board concluded that the claimant had not provided adequate proof of a causally-related injury, leading to the disallowance of her claim.

Whether the claimant could demonstrate a causal relationship between her employment and the alleged spinal and lower body injuries. The claimant needed to prove that her injuries were directly related to her work activities to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

The Workers’ Compensation Board held that the claimant did not sustain a causally-related injury and denied her claim for benefits. The Board found that the evidence presented by the claimant was insufficient to establish a direct connection between her job duties and her injuries.

The Board’s rationale centered on the claimant’s failure to provide competent medical evidence linking her injuries to her employment. The claimant’s medical submissions included an August 2015 report from a physician, which indicated she had a spinal injury and had undergone surgery in November 2014. The report documented her complaints and physical findings, noting a poor prognosis. However, it lacked a specific diagnosis and did not detail how her injuries were related to her work.

To establish her claim for benefits, the claimant needed to demonstrate a probability that her injuries were caused by her employment. This required competent medical evidence that connected her medical condition to her job activities. The Board found that the claimant’s evidence did not meet this standard. The physician’s report did not provide a history of the injury related to her work or any other supporting documentation from other medical providers or tests.

Additionally, while the employer’s failure to file a timely notice of controversy precluded raising certain defenses, it did not relieve the claimant of her burden to demonstrate a causal relationship between her employment and her medical condition. The Board emphasized that even though the claimant presented prima facie medical evidence referencing an injury, this did not suffice to establish a causal link between the injury and her job duties.

The Board also addressed the claimant’s argument that she should have been given an opportunity to submit additional medical evidence. The decision clarified that the Board’s action did not preclude the claimant from submitting further evidence in the future. The claim was disallowed based on the current record, and no further action was planned at that time. This decision left the door open for the claimant to provide additional proof if she could obtain new medical evidence supporting her claim.

If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal injury related to work activities and are facing challenges in obtaining workers’ compensation benefits, it is essential to seek expert legal advice. An experienced New York spinal injury lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of workers’ compensation claims and ensure that you present the strongest possible case.

The legal process for workers’ compensation claims can be both complex and confusing, requiring thorough medical documentation and a clear demonstration of the connection between your injury and your employment. Do not let the complexities of the workers’ compensation system deter you from seeking the benefits you deserve. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss your case and get the guidance you need to pursue your claim effectively. Protecting your rights and securing your future starts with having an experienced advocate by your side.

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