Imagine working for decades for a North Carolina company. You work overtime every time you are asked, and you don’t miss work. Even when you hurt your back at work, you keep working a hard job, for years. But when you fall again, and suffer a new injury to your back, your company decides that it won’t pay.
That is what happened to Jeff Laird, an electrician at International Paper. But Mr. Laird fought back. He asked Valerie Johnson and Drew Culler to file a claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, and to help him get his workers’ compensation benefits.
Mr. Laird, through his lawyers, asked for a hearing to prove his case. At the hearing in Elizabethtown, Mr. Laird’s co-workers and supervisors testified. Everyone that testified agreed that Jeff Laird was not only a hard worker, but that he was also trustworthy and honest. One of his co-workers testified that Mr. Laird needed a ride to the parking lot after he hurt his back in 2016.
But the company refused to reverse its bad decision. The company blamed Mr. Laird’s back pain on arthritis. Even though International Paper admitted that Mr. Laird had hurt his back at work in 2010, it claimed that the 2010 injury was closed.
The company ignored the fact that the Industrial Commission had ordered more medical treatment for Mr. Laird for that injury. The new in 2016 injury damaged a different area of his back. Instead of paying for treatment, the company hired a doctor to examine Mr. Laird and to testify against him.
After the Hearing
After the hearing, the lawyers wrote a brief — a document setting out the facts and arguing the law — to the judge that heard the case. We argued that both of the injuries caused back pain and disability.
That judge, who is called a deputy commissioner, ruled in Mr. Laird’s favor. The deputy commissioner awarded him workers’ compensation benefits, including medical benefits for the surgery and treatment, compensation for his time out of work, and future coverage for his back conditions.
Winning the case after a hearing did not meant that the fight is over in many workers’ compensation cases. Mr. Laird had to keep fighting when the company decided to appeal. Keep in mind that Mr. Laird returned to work after back surgery, even though he was 70 years old.
Valerie Johnson and Drew Culler presented the case to the Full Commission at the Industrial Commission. An appeal requires that another brief is written. The case then goes to oral argument in front of three commissioners, with the company on the other side. After more months of waiting, the three-judge panel agreed with the decision from the trial judge. Mr. Laird won his case.
Contact a Trusted Worker’s Compensation Attorney Today
If your story sounds similar to Mr. Laird, the attorneys at Copeley, Johnson, & Groninger, PLLC may be able to help you. Contact us today to set up your initial consultation so that we can get to work fighting for you.