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Workers’ Compensation – Neck & Back Injury – Credibility – Bus Driver – Minor Collision – Medical Testimony

Workers’ Compensation – Neck & Back Injury – Credibility – Bus Driver – Minor Collision – Medical Testimony

Garner v. Capital Area Transit. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-071154, 9 pp.) (Sanford L. Steelman Jr., J.) Appealed from the Industrial Commission. N.C. App. Click here for the full text of the opinion.

Holding: The plaintiff-bus driver’s only medical evidence came from a doctor who relied on plaintiff’s version of the collision of two buses, one of which rolled a few feet back and bumped plaintiff’s stationary bus. Plaintiff’s version of the accident was contradicted by two defense experts and a surveillance video. The Industrial Commission rejected the doctor’s opinion because the commission found plaintiff’s testimony not to be credible.

We affirm the commission’s denial of benefits.

When a case involves complicated medical questions far removed from the ordinary experience and knowledge of laymen, only an expert can give competent opinion evidence as to the cause of the injury.

Here, only one medical expert was deposed and opined as to whether the March 9, 2007, accident aggravated plaintiff’s pre-existing cervical degenerative disc disease.

The commission found, “Although Dr. Suh opined that the March 9, 2007, bus incident aggravated plaintiff’s preexisting condition of cervical degenerative disc disease, the greater weight of the evidence is to the contrary. Dr. Suh relies on the veracity of plaintiff’s version of the events and complaints surrounding her cervical condition, and his opinion regarding causation and aggravation of plaintiff’s preexisting condition is inconsistent with the greater weight of the evidence.”

In addition to an accident reconstruction expert and an expert in biomechanics, defendant presented a surveillance video. After viewing the video, the commission found, “According to the video surveillance from bus #1235 operated by [plaintiff], [plaintiff] was standing at the time the buses made contact. The incident did not cause plaintiff to be jerked or to fall. Plaintiff indicated that she felt only a nudge when the buses made contact.”

Plaintiff did not include the surveillance video as part of the record on appeal.

The commission clearly did not find plaintiff’s testimony regarding the accident to be credible.

Competent evidence in the record supports the commission’s finding that plaintiff’s testimony regarding the bus accident was “inconsistent with the greater weight of the evidence.”

The commission properly concluded that because Dr. Suh’s opinion regarding causation was based upon “dubious histories related by plaintiff,” that it was not sufficiently reliable to qualify as competent evidence as to the cause of her injuries.



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