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Louie v. BP Exploration Inc. – Workers’ Compensation for Deep Vein Thrombosis in Travelers

On Behalf of | Jul 3, 2014 | Georgia Workers' Compensation |

It’s not uncommon for employers and their insurance firms to deny legitimate Georgia workers’ compensation claims by arguing the injuries were not work-related.In some cases, refuting this is more challenging than in others. Our workers’ compensation lawyers in Atlanta are experienced in handling these sort of assertions. We also know that there are some conditions even the worker may not realize immediately as being work-related.

A good example is deep-vein thrombosis, which was the case for the highly-paid worker in Louie v. BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc.. Deep vein thrombosis is a type of blood clot that occurs deep within the veins, usually in the lower legs or thighs. It can restrict flow of the blood and cause swelling and pain. Beyond that, there is a risk the clot could break loose and block blood flow to the heart, lungs or brain.

Workers who might be most at risk for developing this condition include those who sit or stand for long periods during their work day, and that includes those who are sitting in front of a computer screen, as well as those who must travel extensively, such as long haul truckers or corporate workers who fly frequently.

The Louie case, weighed recently by the Alaska Supreme Court, involves a worker who brought a claim after suffering a stroke brought on by deep vein thrombosis during air travel for work. The facts were largely uncontested. The worker was an auditor for a large oil company, earning more than $100,000 annually. One day, while traveling to England on a plane, he developed deep vein thrombosis related to the air travel. A small clot in his legs made its way to the brain, resulting in a debilitating stroke. One side of his body is permanently paralyzed, suffers aphasia and muscle spasms.

The company initially denied that the condition was work-related. However, the company later agreed to pay him a total disability rate of $700 weekly, which was the cap according to the state law in place at the time of the injury.

That was in 2000. In 2011, the worker filed a new claim, asserting a compensation rate that was adjusted (increased) and permanent total disability benefits. The company argued the compensation rate was already the maximum allowable for the year the worker was injured.

At a hearing on the matter, the worker presented evidence asserting that a former co-worker on the same track as him now earned $300,000 annually, plus benefits and retirement account contributions. His wife testified that soon after the stroke, they both believed he might return to work because, despite the severity of his condition, he was also improving rapidly. Unfortunately, not enough improvement was made.

The board issued a split decision, with the majority finding the statute in effect at the time of the injury should govern, which would cap the maximum benefits at $700 weekly for life. The dissenting board chair argued workers’ compensation is intended to replace workers’ wages at the time of disability, and that the rate should fairly compensate them based on their prior work history. The new state law reflected this too.

In Georgia, compensation rates are based on salary at the time of injury.

Unfortunately in this case, the state supreme court found no reversible error, meaning the rate for this worker will remain stagnant at $700 weekly.

For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-920-4708 .