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State Ex Rel Tradesmen Intl V Indust Commn Permanent Total Disability

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2015 | Georgia Workers' Compensation |

If a worker in Georgia is injured on the job and cannot work for more than seven days, he or she is likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

But there are several different kinds of benefits, which depend not only on the severity of injury, but the impact that injury has on the worker’s earning capacity.

Those type of benefits include:

  • Temporary Total Disability benefits
  • Permanent Total Disability Benefits
  • Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
  • Death and Dependency Benefits

Except for those injuries determined to be catastrophic (i.e., severe paralysis, severe burns, blindness, hearing loss, head injuries or amputations), benefits can only be paid for up to 400 weeks (or almost eight years).

In cases where permanent total disability is alleged, claimant will need to secure help from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer because not only is there much at stake, it’s a difficult threshold to meet. These will typically be “catastrophic injuries,” as defined by state law.

However, different courts have weighed the issue differently.

For example, in the recent Ohio Supreme Court case State ex rel. Tradesmen Int’l v. Indus. Comm’n, a man was granted an award of permanent total disability compensation for a combination of conditions. He had a sprain to his low back. He suffered chronic pain syndrome and depression. He also had a sprain in his shoulder and wrist and disc protrusion in his spine.

All of this, the court found, could be traced to a 2003 work injury that was compensable.

He was originally awarded benefits at that time.

However, he applied for permanent total disability compensation in 2011. In his petition, he submitted a report from his treating physician in which it was stated claimant was restricted to very little movement throughout the day. He couldn’t lift more than 10 pounds. He also had to avoid any repetitive stooping, twisting, bending, pushing, lifting or pulling. Further, he would need frequent periods of rest to lie down and relieve back pain. The doctor noted the “significant difficulty” claimant would have in maintaining any kind of regular schedule.

Two other doctors also submitted medical reports indicating claimant could not work, given his extensive physical restrictions.

A hearing officer agreed, concluding he was unable to work and granted him permanent total disability.

The man’s former employer challenged that finding, alleging the court abused its discretion in ordering permanent compensation. Company alleged the primary care doctor had never said claimant’s disability was only the result of work-related injury.

However, the court of appeals concluded that while the doctor did state claimant could perform sedentary work, he also outlined a set of restrictions that were so narrow they all but effectively precluded all possible employment. The commission noted it wasn’t just whether the doctor concluded he could not work, but whether that conclusion is consistent with the physical restrictions from the doctor.

In this case, the restrictions were so limiting as to render him incapable of working.

Employer then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which affirmed, with the additional finding that benefits should be retroactive to the date of his primary care doctor’s initial report – in 2011.

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