How Do I Prove That My Injury Is Work-Related?
If you are injured at work and wish to obtain workers’ compensation, you must prove to a Pennsylvania workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) that there is a causal connection between your work and the injury. If that causal connection is not obvious, proving it requires unequivocal medical testimony, the state Supreme Court has ruled. That means your physician or another medical expert must attest, based on a factual foundation, that there is in fact causation.
If your employer presents unequivocal medical testimony that your injury did not result from your job, it is up to the judge to determine whose testimony is credible, and what weight to give it. That means that evidence may be accepted as proving a causal connection in one person’s workers’ compensation case but not in another’s. Even if your medical expert is the only one who testifies, the WCJ might not find the testimony convincing and choose to give it little or no weight based on the opinion that the expert’s opinion was equivocal.
Medical testimony is equivocal if it is based only upon possibilities and is vague and open to doubt. However, it is not necessary that the expert rule out with absolute certainty other factors that may have caused or contributed to a condition. Nor does the testimony become equivocal just because of some expression of doubt, especially if it is taken out of context. Instead, the testimony must be judged as a whole.
In addition, medical testimony must reflect the expert’s adequate understanding of the relevant facts of the case, including the circumstances surrounding the injury and how the claimant is affected by it. The record must contain factual, accurate and true information in support of the expert’s opinion that the WCJ believes and gives weight to, not relying on inaccurate or false information.
Proving a causal connection is more complicated if you suffered a prior, similar injury. You may receive workers’ compensation for aggravations and recurrences of previous work-related injuries, or even for work-related aggravations of non-work-related injuries, but not for a natural progression of a non-work-related injury. Therefore, if your medical expert is unaware of your relevant non-work-related medical history or fails to take it into proper account, the expert’s opinion might not be sufficient to prove a causal connection.
In any case, a WCJ’s ruling that medical testimony is either equivocal or unequivocal may be overruled on appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.
If you believe that you have a disability caused by a work-related injury, speak with a skilled Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney at Rudberg Law Offices, LLC in Pittsburgh. Call 412-488-6000 or contact us online to consult about your case today.