An article that appeared in our blogwire yesterday tells us of a court case in Alabama that resulted in an interesting determination. It appears that if the cause of a fall is unknown, the claim is not valid. The court found that injuries sustained in a fall were not compensable because an employee could not show that his job was the cause of his fall. The story was brought to us by our friends at Fish Nelson, a highly competent defense law firm in Alabama. They posted it in their blog, the Alabama Workers Comp Blawg, which we gleefully rip off and republish – with permission of course.

Actually, it was the facts of the injuries that really caught my eye. Apparently there were two injuries, or rather a multitude of injuries from two separate incidents. In the first accident, the employee claimed to have injured his back, left leg, right arm, and right shoulder. Then, he claims to have had a fall, which he attributed to his injuries from the first accident. In that fall he injured his left ankle and right shoulder.

I am not sure what this guy does for a living. It sounds like he could be a crash dummy at the Alabama Hyundai plant. As best I can tell, he still has a good right leg, left arm, and left shoulder, so all is not apparently lost. He can probably still waltz – sort of. But I digress.

The employee had claimed that he had experienced tingling and numbness in his left leg after accident #1, and that caused him to fall – ergo accident #2. The court, as best as I can tell, made this case as clear as mud with its ruling, as it partially denied and partially granted “the employee's petition for mandamus relief”.

It is at this point, that I, as a skilled and dedicated author, pretend to know what the hell “mandamus relief” is. I will also pretend that you, the reader, know that it is an order from a high court to a lower court, or to an authority, instructing it to perform an action or duty. I did not look that up, and did not simply copy and paste the definition. I knew it instinctually.

I am just that good.

Basically the Court of Civil Appeals found that the trial judge in the case was correct in denying benefits for the second accident based on the finding that the cause of that accident was unknown, however it also found the trial judge erred by denying benefits for the right shoulder, as evidence indicated that injury may be related to the first accident.

So the high court mandamussed the lower court to go back and have another look-see. I apologize if I am being too linguistically legalistic. Do try to keep up.

The original author who brought this to my attention was Fish Nelson attorney Trey Cotney. Given the somewhat convoluted message of this decision, he certainly worked to find a proper balance in his assessment. Mr. Cotney correctly conjectures that the trial judge will review the case, and determine if the shoulder injury was indeed a result of accident #1. He successfully concludes therefore that the employee will either receive benefits, or he won't. I know the people at Fish Nelson, and I have no doubt that Mr. Cotney is an outstanding attorney. I also believe he has tremendous potential in politics.

I will certainly donate to his campaign. Or I won't.

The bottom line is that it is not enough to know that you fell. You need to know (and show) why you fell if you wish to be awarded benefits in Alabama, even if you are a crash dummy.

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