Medical Evidence Points to Singular Hand Injury for Del. Worker

15 Mar, 2023 Frank Ferreri

                               

Dover, DE (WorkersCompensation.com) -- When there's conflicting medical evidence about an injured worker, including that which comes from the worker himself, which side is a ruling authority supposed to come down on?

As a Delaware court explained in Jason v. Delaware, No. N22A-06-004 VLM (Del. Super. Ct. 03/13/23), the Industrial Accident Board is free to put stock in the experts and evidence it feels reach the best conclusion.

A worker for the State of Delaware was injured after he fell from a stool when shredding confidential documents. On the injury report he filled out, the worker indicated that he injured his “hand” and “shoulder” in the accident, using the singular form of those nouns. 

Within three weeks of the fall, the worker saw an orthopedic surgeon for pain in his shoulders and neck. The surgeon opined that the worker had experienced both cervical and left shoulder injuries from the fall. 

The worker visited a spine specialist, who treated the worker with physical therapy for both shoulders. 

After undergoing multiple surgeries that included bilateral carpal tunnel releases, bilateral shoulder surgeries, and a neck surgery, the worker filed a Petition for Compensation Due, seeking a determination of compensability related to the worker’s bilateral wrists, shoulders, and cervical spine, as well as the payment of medical expenses and periods of temporary total disability benefits. 

The Industrial Accident Board ruled that the worker injured his left shoulder but denied his claims related to bilateral carpal tunnel and right shoulder injuries. The worker appealed to court. 

Delaware law allows the Industrial Accident Board to credit one expert opinion over the other.  

In upholding the board’s decision, the court determined that that is what the board did in this case, highlighting that the board considered both the worker’s and state’s medical experts. 

“It properly evaluated both [the worker’s] credibility and corresponding medical records,” the court wrote. 

Additionally, the court pointed out that the board’s conclusions about the worker’s injuries was based on substantial evidence because:

  • The worker self-reported that he fell only on his left hand.
  • References involving both hands were made only in later reports.
  • Medical records close in time to the work accident focused almost entirely on the worker’s left shoulder and neck.
  • The worker’s medical expert acknowledged on cross-examination that if the mechanism of injury involved only the left hand, the alleged injuries to the right side would not be related to the work accident. 

“[The board] considered evidence from both experts and chose to accept and reject, in part, their respective opinions,” the court wrote. “It was within its province to do so.” 

What are the courts up to in Delaware and across the U.S.? Find out on WorkCompResearch


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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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