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Humphrey v. Lowe’s – Workers’ Compensation After Voluntary Exit

On Behalf of | Oct 30, 2014 | Georgia Workers' Compensation |

Georgia workers’ compensation injury claims are rarely straightforward, even when it’s clear injury occurred in the scope and course of employment.This is especially true with regard to temporary total disability benefits when a worker quits, is fired or is laid-off for reasons unrelated to the injury.

Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are those designed to help workers recover lost income when they are unable to work due to a job-related injury. Workers qualify if they cannot do the kind of work they did before because of the accident. If an employee is deemed entitled to collect temporary total disability benefits, those may continue until:

  • He returns to work
  • His doctor says he can return to work
  • His doctor says he has permanent disability that is not expected to improve (at which point you can seek permanent disability benefits)
  • More than 400 weeks have passed since the injury (unless injuries are catastrophic, in which they case benefits could continue indefinitely)

Our Atlanta work injury lawyers know that because these payments (two-thirds’ one’s wages, as calculated in the 13 weeks prior to the injury) are burdensome on employers, they often fight vigorously against paying them. You will need someone on your side who can fight back just as tenaciously.

In the recent case of Humphrey v. Lowe’s, before the Alaska Supreme Court, a primary focus in the determination of TTD eligibility was the circumstances under which the worker left his job after a compensable work accident.

According to court records, worker was employed as a stocker for a large warehouse building supply store in November 2009 when a cantilever shelf fell on him. As a result, he sustained injury to his back. He was treated for pain and cleared for modified work beginning in January 2010. The large company moved him to various positions in order to accommodate his restrictions, but he continued to suffer pain.

Less than a month after returning to work, he was disciplined for reasons reportedly unrelated to his work injury. Less than a month after that, he received a performance evaluation that was generally positive. However, a week later, he submitted a two week notice citing personal reasons (i.e., no home, no transportation). However, his note left some question of ambiguity on whether he might actually leave after those two weeks were over. He contends he told them the work-related problems were resolved and that he could continue to work without issue.

However, on what he originally stated was to be his last day, worker says he was called into the office and terminated because he had submitted his two weeks’ notice. The manager denied such a conversation took place.

The worker continued to receive treatment for his back pain, with a treating physician recommending surgery. He later moved with his girlfriend and her family out-of-state. He then filed a worker’s compensation claim seeking medical benefit coverage and TTD from the date he left work.

He was diagnosed with disc abnormalities and back pain related to the work injury. He underwent surgery in the spring of 2011.

The state workers’ compensation board determined the worker’s injury was compensable, and ordered the company to pay medical costs and disability benefits from the date of the surgery. However, the board denied the worker’s request for TTD from the end of his employment to the date of the surgery because, the board found, he’d exited his employment voluntary for reasons not related to the injury.

The worker appealed with regard to the finding of TTD, but the supreme court affirmed – except that it found he was entitled to attorney’s fees in relation to the appeal.

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