In a recent victory for Franklin and Prokopik’s Herndon office and counsel Jennifer R. Helsel, the Full Commission upheld the Deputy Commissioner’s Opinion that an injury from a knee bend did not arise out of the claimant’s employment. The claimant worked as an aircraft maintenance mechanic and alleged a work-related injury to his right knee after bending down to inspect the engine of an airplane bound for an overseas flight. Following the injury, the claimant required surgery and sought lifetime medical benefits as well as a period of wage loss.
The claims adjuster took the claimant’s recorded statement approximately one week after the injury. At that time, the claimant stated, “I bent down. That’s all it was. It was just – it was something simple as bending down and getting up. That was it. Bending over, bending down.” Initial medical records from Concentra stated that the claimant kneeled down and, upon standing up, he awkwardly twisted his knee. At the evidentiary hearing, the claimant testified that it was a “funny” bend and not normal. He stated that he felt a pop in his knee as he “started to go down.” Additionally, the claimant could not explain how or why his knee popped when it did.
The Deputy Commissioner determined that the claimant’s testimony at the hearing was contradictory to the evidence offered that was contemporaneous to the accident. More specifically, the Deputy Commissioner found that the recorded statement was more reliable than the testimony offered as to the mechanism of injury for the claim. The claimant subsequently appealed the decision to the Full Commission.
All three Commissioners affirmed the Deputy Commissioner’s Opinion finding that the claimant’s injury did not arise out of his employment. Although the claimant argued that the claimant’s testimony at the evidentiary hearing, coupled with the medical records, should be weighed more heavily, the Full Commission determined that the hearing testimony was inconsistent with the information provided in his recorded statement and what he reported while seeking medical attention. As such, the decision regarding denial of the claim was affirmed.
This decision highlights the importance of a recorded statement during an initial investigation. Because recorded statements are taken closer in time to the incident (and, oftentimes, before the claimant has retained counsel), this evidence is significant in evaluating the claim for compensability and potential defenses. In this example, the Deputy Commissioner and Full Commission favored the description of the mechanism of injury in the recorded statement over the testimony provided under oath at the evidentiary hearing.