03/17/2017 by Megan B. Caramore
The Court of Appeals recently considered whether a claimant’s alleged violation of pre-existing medical restrictions could warrant a denial of workers’ compensation benefits. In Staton v. The Bros. Signal Co., 66 Va. App. 185, 783 S.E.2d 539 (2016), the claimant suffered from pre-existing knee problems and his physician had instructed him to avoid walking on unlevel terrain, as he would be at a risk of re-injury. The claimant stepped into quicksand-like soil while walking at his worksite and injured his knee.
The Commission determined that the injury did not qualify as accidental because it was the expected result of the claimant’s failure to adhere to his physician’s repeated instructions. The Court of Appeals reversed the Commission, stating that “to warrant the denial of benefits, the evidence must prove more than the employee’s violation of a medical restriction; it must also prove that the violation is the activity that caused the employee’s injury.” The Court also held that “medical restrictions must be clearly communicated and specific before a claimant’s violation of such restrictions may bar the recovery of benefits. Generalized medical admonitions are insufficient.”