Jeanne H Washburn


In the Worker’s Compensation field attorneys will often refer to something known as a “Parson’s presumption.” To a normal person with a claim this terminology means nothing.

A relatively recent 2005 case provides an adequate example. In Smith v. Brookwood Farms, a 38 year-old meat-packing supervisor in Chatham County suffered a back injury while at work. The employer recognized liability for the claim and paid the employee during the time that she was out of work. Eventually the employee underwent surgery to repair her spine. In fact, the employee’s surgeon went through her abdominal area to get to the spine. Around a month after the surgery, the employee began to suffer pain in her abdominal area, a different area than her original, compensable injury. The employee claimed that her abdominal pain was due to the surgery for her work injury. The employer claimed that it was a different body part and thus not compensable under Worker’s Compensation law.

The Commission applied what has come to be known as the “Parson’s presumption.” The basic principle of the rule is that when you suffer a compensable work injury, it is presumed that if further medical treatment is needed as a result of your work injury, even if a different body part is involved, the employer will be liable. In effect, this means that the employer has the burden to prove that the secondary injury was caused by something else, not the original injury.

This case, along with many others, shows that Worker’s Compensation law is not limited to one accident or one body part. As this Chatham County resident showed, you deserve compensation for all injuries resulting from your work accident.


If you are hurt at work and suffer an injury, you should immediately report that injury to your employer. It is not uncommon for an employer to initially deny a workers’ compensation claim. They are not necessarily doing so with any sort of negative intent. It is common for employers to deny the claim until they receive enough factual information to accept it. However, as this Food Lion forklift driver’s story shows, you should not stop receiving medical treatment and you should continue pursuing compensation for your injury.

In 2005, a Harnett County forklift operator had been experiencing back pain for several months, likely due to his job at Food Lion where he had to lift boxes and heavy bags on a daily basis. In April of that year his forklift became caught on a piece of metal, causing it to snap around and throw him against the machine. The Food Lion employee immediately suffered a sharp pain in his back and notified his supervisor. Eventually, the employee’s claim was denied. The employee was not allowed to seek light duty work as a result of the denial. During this time, the employee was still seeking medical treatment and was eventually diagnosed with a bulging disc in his back. Even though the employee was found to have a preexisting degenerative disc disease, the Industrial Commission held that the employee’s pre-existing condition was worsened because of the workplace injury.

Thus, in the face of challenges from his employer, the employee was able to recover compensation from the time of his injury to the point where he became healed. This employee’s story shows that an employer’s denial of a claim should not deter an injured employee from seeking compensation. With the help of a skilled attorney in this area, your injury could be rightfully compensated as well. Contact a Workers’ Compensation attorney in your area to help you understand your claim and your rights resulting from a workplace injury.


A misinformed employer or workers’ compensation representative may intentionally or unintentionally try to discourage an injured worker from filing a claim based on a pre-existing injury. It may even sound logical. However, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law protects employees from workplace injuries, even those who may bring pre-existing conditions to their current job. An Edgecombe County schoolteacher’s story confirms this.

In White v. Edgecombe County Schools, a schoolteacher slipped and fell on a wet floor, suffering a debilitating back injury. Prior to her employment with the school system, the teacher suffered from many non-work related medical issues. These included: (1) diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and most notably, preexisting chronic back pain which resulted in surgery. As a result of her slip and fall, the teacher needed two more surgeries on her back. In that case, the defendants challenged much of the resulting treatment needed. The defendants argued that the resulting treatment was not a result of the work injury.

The Industrial Commission confirmed that North Carolina law is clear: preexisting conditions do not necessarily preclude the award of compensation resulting from a workplace injury. The Commission held that the resulting condition and pain were an effect of her workplace injury and were natural consequences of the compensable injury. Thus, the teacher was rightfully awarded continuing disability compensation and compensation for medical expenses related to the injury.

This case is the rule, rather than the exception. Do not let the fear of a preexisting condition stop you from seeking compensation for your workplace injury. Contact a Worker’s Compensation attorney immediately to aid you in getting compensation for your claim.

I.C. NO. 089640

Does my employer have workers compensation coverage?

In the event that you are unsure as to whether your employer has Workers’ Compensation coverage, the statute is thankfully quite clear in most circumstances. Any employer who regularly employs three or more employees is required to carry Workers’ Compensation coverage. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-2(1).

The term “regularly employs” typically refers to a consistent number of regular employees over a period of time. For instance, just because your employer may have fallen below three employers at the time of your injury, that would not necessarily make it impossible for you to make a Workers’ Compensation claim. If your employer typically—over a long period of time—had three or more employees, the business would likely still require coverage.

The definition of an employee can be quite a bit more complex. This determination can be complicated by your status as an independent contractor, length of employment, the benefits you receive from the business, or other specifics related to your employment agreement. It is imperative that you always save any contracts or physical materials given to you when starting a job. These will aid your Workers’ Compensation Attorney and employer in expediting a Workers’ Compensation claim in the event you suffer an occupational injury.

I hurt my back at work, will I be able to get Workers’ Compensation? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

The most common injuries that arise in Workers’ Compensation cases are back-related injuries. However, back injuries can often be a long developing condition and may have been pre-existing prior to starting the employment where the injury occurred.

There are many important factors in determining whether a back injury that occurred at work is compensable under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Some of these are:

1. How long have you been suffering back pain?
2. What event occurred to cause the back pain?
3. Did this event occur at work?
4. Is the event that caused the onset of the back pain something that you do every day at work?
5. Did something happen at work—out of the ordinary—that you feel caused the new back pain?
6. Do you remember the exact time and place where the injury occurred?
7. Did you do anything else that day that may have caused the injury or aggravation of the injury?
8. How long after the event did you realize your back was injured?
9. Have you ever gone to the doctor before and been treated for a back condition?
10. Have you ever filed a Workers’ Compensation claim before related to your current injury?

None of these questions are necessarily deciding factors of whether you will be compensated for your injury. Each case turns on the specific facts that are relevant. However, these are all important questions to ask yourself—and be prepared to answer—when you seek legal advice for your claim.

Voting season is upon us

As many of you know, voting season is upon us. Early voting starts today, October 23, 2014 and ends November 1, 2014. Election day itself is November 4, 2014.
There are many very important judicial races at stake in this election. Many injured people from counties all across North Carolina may not realize that the outcome of these judicial elections may affect the outcome of their injury cases. These elections are important for every citizen but their importance to those who have been injured in a car wreck , on-the-job accident, or other injury accident cannot be overstated.

Every citizen is urged to educate himself regarding the candidates and the process and helpful information can be found here. If you are interested in my specific thoughts about individual candidates that may best protect the rights of those who were injured by the negligence of others or injured in a workers compensation accident please contact me directly.

Accident Takes the Life of Wake County Teenager

On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, tragically, a thirteen year-old Wake County ll boy was killed as he was waiting for his school bus. It appears that he was struck by an older burgundy Ford. The car did not stop after striking the teen but parts of the car were found strewn near his body. The police are looking for information from anyone who is aware of the accident or who has noticed a car with damage consistent from this wreck.
The family mourns this wrongful death of this young man and seeks the help of the community in order to find the driver that caused this wreck.

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