back-pain

Misdiagnosed Worker Can Amend The Cause Of Injury More Than 2 Years Later

Today’s post comes from guest author Matthew Funk from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

The Appellate Division Third Department issued a decision (Searchfield v. Lowe’s Home Centers) that is interesting case because it pertains to the establishment of an injury that was originally misdiagnosed.

  • In October 2005, an employee was injured at work while lifting a hot water heater. As a result of the injury the employee went to the emergency room. He was diagnosed by an emergency room physician with myofascial strain of the legs and hips.
  • A November 2005 physician’s report diagnosed the claimant with hip/thigh sprain and sciatica. The later medical reports focused on the groin, lower back and leg pain.
  • In July 2006, a Law Judge established the claim for a work related injury to the claimant’s lower back. However, the employee continued to report worsening symptoms in his hip area.
  • In 2009, the claimant saw an orthopedic surgeon. The doctor performed a MRI of the right hip. The MRI revealed a right hip labral tear that required surgury. According to the surgeon the claim was originally misdiagnosed and the claimant had, in fact, sustained injuries to his right hip as a result of the October 2005 accident.
  • The claimant applied for a hearing to amend the claim for the right hip.
  • The Judge ruled that the right hip claim was time barred (pursuant to Workers’ Compensation Law Section 28). This states that a claim for a causally related condition must be made within two years of the date of accident.
  • On appeal the Board Panel reversed and the Appellate Division affirmed the Board Panel.

The Appellate Division stated that the early medical reports reflect initial concerns relating to the claimants hips. Also, there was supporting medical evidence that the claimant’s ongoing pain was the result of a labral tear in the right hip, a condition which is often misdiagnosed as a low back injury. The Court went on to add that the claimant could not have filed a claim for a causally related right hip injury at the time of the accident because it was not properly identified and diagnosed.

This case is important as it allowed the amendment of a claim for a serious injury that misdiagnosed early on in the case. You can find the entire court decision here.