A Carluzzo Rochkind & Smith note: Following is an excellent article by Virginia Lawyers Weekly. For more than 20 years, our workers’ compensation lawyers in Manassas have helped clients in Prince William County, Fairfax County, Woodbridge, and throughout Northern Virginia. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our law firm at (703) 361-0776.
Evidence supports finding of work-related injury
By Virginia Lawyers Weekly – 5/26/2022
Even though some opinions from claimant’s treating physician were “equivocal,” there was sufficient medical evidence that claimant’s knee injury was causally related to a slip-and-fall accident at work.
“‘Causation is usually proven by medical evidence.’ …[I]in cases where medical opinions conflict, ‘the [C]ommission [is] free to decide which evidence [is] more credible and should be weighed more heavily.’ …
“It is undisputed that claimant suffered a compensable left knee sprain on May 8, 2020. It also is undisputed that claimant suffered from osteoarthritis in his left knee, a condition that pre-dated claimant’s May 8, 2020 work accident.
“Thus, we are asked to determine whether credible evidence exists to support the Commission’s causation finding with respect to claimant’s ongoing symptoms and need for a total left knee replacement. …
“Employer argues that the opinions of Dr. Norris should not be entitled to the weight typically afforded to treating physicians because Dr. Norris’ opinions were ‘equivocal at best,’ and ‘cannot be twisted into a clear opinion regarding causation.’
“We disagree with employer. It is true that, at times, Dr. Norris gave opinions that employer reasonably characterizes as equivocal.
“For example, Dr. Norris stated in March 2021 that claimant’s arthritis ‘may have’ been exacerbated by the work injury and that the meniscal root tear was ‘likely’ due to the work injury.
“Dr. Norris also explained that the mechanism of claimant’s injury is one that ‘can lead’ to meniscal tears.
“As the Commission noted, however, these were not Dr. Norris’ only statements regarding causation.
“In August 2020 and January 2021, Dr. Norris opined, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, that claimant’s work accident aggravated claimant’s pre-existing osteoarthritis, that claimant suffered a meniscal root tear stemming from the work accident, and that claimant required surgery as a result of the work accident.
“The Commission credited these opinions in forming its factual findings related to causation.
“Furthermore, although claimant had osteoarthritis in his left knee prior to the accident, there is no evidence that, immediately before the accident, he had any pain or dysfunction in his left knee.
“There is also no evidence that claimant’s condition improved following May 8, 2020. Indeed, Dr. Norris explained that claimant’s need for a total knee replacement was related to the May 8, 2020 work accident because the accident was an ‘aggravation of [claimant’s] pre-existing condition that was previously not causing symptoms or functional impairment.’
“In reaching its conclusion, the Commission credited Dr. Norris’ opinion in this regard.
“Considering the totality of the record, the Commission did not err in finding Dr. Norris’ opinions credible. Because we do not reweigh findings of credibility, those opinions provided a sufficient evidentiary basis for the Commission’s decision.”
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., et al v. Foley, Record No. 1167-21-3, May 3, 2022. CAV (Russell) from the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Comm’n.
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