Abstract

When an individual falls due to a nonwork-related episode of dizziness, hits their head and sustains injury, do workers’ compensation laws consider such injuries to be compensable? Bearing in mind that each state makes its own laws, the answer depends on what caused the loss of consciousness, and the second asks specifically what happened in the fall that caused the injury? The first question speaks to medical causation, which applies scientific analysis to determine the cause of the problem. The second question addresses legal causation: Under what factual circumstances are injuries of this type potentially covered under the law? Much nuance attends this analysis. The authors discuss idiopathic falls, which in this context means “unique to the individual” as opposed to “of unknown cause,” which is the familiar medical terminology. The article presents three detailed case studies that describe falls that had their genesis in episodes of loss of consciousness, followed by analyses by lawyer or judge authors who address the issue of compensability, including three scenarios from Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania. A medical (scientific) analysis must be thorough and must determine the facts regarding the fall and what occurred: Was the fall due to a fit (eg, a seizure with loss of consciousness attributable to anormal brain electrical activity) or a faint (eg, loss of consciousness attributable to a decrease in blood flow to the brain? The evaluator should be able to fully explain the basis for the conclusions, including references to current science.

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