Squatting for Prolonged Periods Can Be Considered a Work Hazard Allowing Benefits for Injured Worker

The case of Cotner v. Southern Personnel Management, Inc. was decided by the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission on August 20, 2015.

The worker in this case, Warren Cotner, was a shuttle bus driver for his employer shuttling prospective clients to their time share management building. On the date of the accident he got out of the bus and walked to the front left side of it to determine whether the front air conditioning unit was properly working. He had already told the mechanic about the compressor problem. While squatting over the unit to listen to the compressor to see whether it was grinding or making some type of grinding or malfunctioning noise, Cotner bent forward and squatted, putting one leg behind him as he did so. While he tried to stand back Cotner stepped backwards and his foot stepped on a pebble or otherwise got stuck on the pavement, causing him to stumble backward and fall down to the ground, landing on the pavement.

The worker suffered injuries to his right hip (a hip fracture), neck and right shoulder, was brought to the emergency room, and underwent surgery for repair of the right hip fracture, with a screw being inserted. Mr. Cotner’s medical expert his attorney sent him to examined him and concluded that his slip and fall incident was the main factor causing his injuries, requiring his hip surgery, and leaving him with permanent disability and likely requiring future medical treatment.

However, as usually happens, his employer’s workers compensation insurance sent Mr. Cotner to their own medical expert. After interviewing and examining the worker company-selected Dr. Lennard wrote a medical report concluding that the fall caused Cotner an upper spine (cervical) strain and right shoulder strain, blaming 20% of his strain on pre-existing, pre-accident spinal fusion surgeries. He also found that the employee had injured his right shoulder in the fall, but attributed one-half of all the problems in his shoulder to a pre-existing right shoulder condition.

When a company doctor medical expert blames any part of the permanent disability from a work accident on pre-existing medical condition— whether from a previous accident and injury or pre-existing arthritis degeneration of the same part(s) of the body injured in the work accident— that allows the employer and its workmen’s compensation insurer to subtract that amount of disability from the worker’s workmen’s comp benefit. It means that the employee hurt on the job in a work injury does not get 100% of his disability benefits from the accidental injury.

The administrative law judge who heard the case ruled in favor of employee Cotner, finding that he suffered injuries from his fall accident to his hip, neck and right shoulder not just while he was at work but because he was at work. Getting hurt while on the job is not enough to be entitled to workers compensation benefits, either medical treatment, temporary off-work wage loss benefits, or permanent disability benefits. The judge, after hearing all the testimony from both the worker’s and the company’s experts and the worker’s vocational expert saying he could no longer work, awarded the worker permanent total disability, without subtracting anything for pre-existing disability.

This case is a good example of why a worker injured on the job needs a good lawyer to represent him. Many lower and middle level supervisors refuse to report work-related injuries reported to them by employees under their supervision to higher-ups in the company or delay doing it. Then when the injured worker gets tired of having their work injury ignored and never gets sent to a doctor by the company, when the employee then goes over the heads of his direct supervisors to company top managers or human resources, they will often claim that he failed to report his work accident and injury in time to the company, since the supervisors claimed he never did.

Another reason a worker injured on the job in a work accident really should consult and hire a lawyer is that even when the company finally sends the employee out to a doctor for treatment, the doctors they choose for treatment will do everything they can to deny or minimize the worker’s injuries and will go out of their way to blame any work injuries on pre-existing degeneration (like arthritis) or previous injuries. A good, experienced hard-fighting workers’ compensation attorney can gather up all the medical treatment records and send the injured worker out for an evaluation by experts who will work in the employee’s interests and enable the injured worker to prove his case to a workmen’s compensation judge.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can defend your rights to workers compensation benefits and demand treatment and money benefits. They can help you fight to enforce your legal rights to benefits. They can fight to keep the company from cancelling or underpaying your benefits. Please call Tom Hyatt for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, Warren County, Lincoln County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, St. Charles County, or any other counties in eastern Missouri within 125 miles of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Our consultations are completely free of charge. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. He will fight as hard he can to enforce all of your rights to Missouri workers compensation benefits. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workers’ comp disability benefits we get for you. Please call now for a free consultation. (See Contact Us).

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