Previously, I have discussed some of the considerations that, as attorneys specializing in representation of claimants in workers’ compensation, we at HammondTownsend look for in determining whether the claimant has sustained a “compensable” injury. Specifically, I discussed the concepts of “in the course of” and “arising out of” the employment. In this post I consider the requirement that the claimant suffer “an injury by accident.”
The VWCC has stated that “an injury by accident” has 3 components: 1) an identifiable accident, 2) a “sudden” mechanical or structural change in the body, and 3) a causal connection between the incident and the bodily change.
60 O.I.C. 127 (1981).
Likewise, pain from the injury need not be contemporaneous with the accident to establish a causal connection between accident and injury. A lapse between the incident and the claimant’s seeking medical treatment for the injury is not fatal to the claim.
While the claimant must show that a “sudden precipitating event” caused the injury, it is not necessary to prove that it was an extraordinary occurrence at the claimant’s work. “Sudden,” as used in this context, means an immediate event which causes an injury, not an “unexpected” consequence. The “sudden precipitating event” does not connote an unexpected consequence. Rather, a “sudden precipitating event” is one that “immediately” causes an injury as distinguished from an injury which develops gradually.
76 O.W.C. 359 (1997).
The Commission considers the totality of the evidence when determining if the claimant has shown that he/she has sustained his/her burden of proving an injury by accident. So long as the claimant is not inherently incredible, the Commission will look to his/her testimony and the medical record to decide whether he/she has met the burden of proof.
57 O.I.C. 366 (1977).
This overview of the “injury by accident” only scratches the surface, but hopefully gives you some appreciation of how this essential concept is addressed in workers’ comp cases. In future posts I hope to discuss not only other issues which must be proved but also some concerns that are not essential to comp cases which may surprise you.