Case of Hallman v. North Carolina Department of Corrections Illustrates Just How Complicated North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Can Get

March 11, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

On March 2, 2010, the NC Court of Appeals ruled on a longstanding and contentious North Carolina workers’ compensation case of Hallman v. the NC Department of Corrections.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission established a number of findings of fact that neither plaintiff nor defendant challenged. The employee in question (Hallman) was a practicing dentist who developed a crushing depression in 1996 and had to stop working. Seven years later, in March 2003, the North Carolina Department of Corrections hired him to practice dentistry. Hallman accepted this position, because doing so did not threaten to undermine his Social Security disability benefits.

Things were looking up for the dentist and until May of that year, when Hallman hurt his back while playing sports with his son. Several months later, he had back surgery to fix his basketball injury. In September 2003, he went back to work. But he did not last long. Due to continued pain, his doctor told him to stop working. In December 2003, Hallman tried again to go back to work. By the following month, he had regained almost complete use of his back. But on January 26, 2004, he slipped on a patch of ice getting out of his car and hurt his back again. On top of that, Hallman has incipient Parkinson’s disease.

The trials and tribulations of this employee seeking North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits illustrates just how complex and multi-faceted the process can be. Consider all of the employee’s conditions – the depression, the Parkinson’s, the two back injuries, and the surgery – along with how and when they occurred within the context of his employment. Both the appellate court and the North Carolina Industrial Commission were somewhat stumped about how to handle his situation. Was Hallman totally or partially disabled? What benefits should he be entitled to, and until when should he be entitled to them?

What’s interesting is that this case is rather typical for North Carolina workers’ compensation cases. Usually, it’s not just that an employee gets injured once and quickly recovers and goes back to work. Typically, an employee suffers a string of minor (and major) physical insults that collaborate to cause a constellation of health problems that impede if not totally interrupt the employee’s ability to do his or her job.

All this is to say that if you or a loved one has been struggling with a North Carolina workers’ compensation case, it’s almost certainly in your best interest to connect with a knowledgeable state workers’ comp attorney to go over your options.

More Web Resources:

Hallman v North Carolina Department of Corrections

North Carolina Industrial Commission


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