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Misrepresentations May Lead To Denial Of Workers’ Comp. Claims

Misrepresentations May Lead to Denial of Workers’ Comp. Claims

By Attorney Jesse S. Shapiro

Misrepresentations about past injuries, comp claims, or work restrictions may lead to denial of your workers’ compensation claim.

A history of work-related injuries or workers’ compensation claims does not prevent you from accepting a new job or filing a workers’ comp claim for a job-related injury. However, what you write on a job application or say during an interview can come back to haunt you if you conceal information about past work injuries, workers’ compensation claims, or work restrictions. Kimberly Purcell learned this lesson the hard way when a North Carolina workers’ compensation commissioner denied her claim.

Just the Facts

In 2007, Purcell applied for a job with Friday Staffing. When she filled out the application, she indicated she had never had back surgery, filed a workers’ comp claim, or experienced any back problems. She also said she was able to lift more than 50 pounds. It turns out that Purcell had actually injured her back in 1999. As a result, her doctor told her not to lift more than 20 pounds. He also suggested she seek work that was not physically demanding.

Relying on the information in her job application, Friday Staffing placed Purcell at a new job that required her to lift boxes of automotive parts. During an interview, Purcell confirmed her ability to lift more than 50 pounds at a time. Most of the boxes she handled weighed between 20 and 25 pounds, exceeding the lifting restriction put in place by her doctor. In 2011, Purcell re-injured her back. Unable to continue working, she applied for North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits.

Claim Denied 

Purcell ended up having her workers’ compensation claim denied by both Friday Staffing and a workers’ compensation commissioner. She appealed to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which also denied the claim. Finally, Purcell appealed to the Court of Appeals of North Carolina, which upheld the denial of coverage.

In 2011, the North Carolina legislature updated the state’s workers’ compensation laws to bar employees from recovering compensation for their injuries if their cases met all three of the following conditions.

  1. The employee knowingly and willfully made a false representation as to his or her physical condition. Purcell did this when she said she had never filed a workers’ comp claim, experienced back problems, or had back surgery.
  1. The employer relied upon one or more false representations by the employee, and the reliance was a substantial factor in their hiring decision. Friday Staffing relied on the information provided by Ms. Purcell when deciding to place her in a position requiring the ability to lift heavy boxes.
  1. There was a causal connection between the false representation by the employee and the injury/occupational disease. Because Purcell had injured her back in 1999, there was a direct link between the false information she provided and the injury she sustained in 2011.

The Takeaway 

A previous injury or workers’ comp claim won’t hurt your chances of getting a job, but providing misleading information on your application can hurt you. If you are concerned that your history of work-related injuries is affecting your employment prospects, consult with a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your rights.

For a free consultation, contact Jesse Shapiro, Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist, at (919) 775-5653.

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