State Supreme Court Determines Worker’s Ability to Work Cannot Be the Sole Basis for Denial of Permanent Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case involving a man who was seriously injured while working at a national hardware store chain. The employer argued that since a doctor had determined that the employee could return to work, although the worker’s back was found to have a 75% impairment rating, permanent benefits should be denied. The court ultimately rejected the defendant’s argument and found that the injured employee should have been eligible for permanent workers’ compensation benefits.
The Facts of the Case
In September 2010, the employee slipped and fell while he was helping a customer load merchandise into their vehicle. As a result of the fall, the employee seriously injured his back. Specifically, he suffered from a herniated disc and spinal-cord compression. He had surgery performed to fuse two of his discs together. However, even after the surgery, he suffered from neck and back pain and had difficulty with balance.
The injured worker was seen by several doctors, each of whom had different opinions about his level of impairment. However, all of the medical opinions suggested that the level of impairment to the worker’s spine was over 50%. Some opinions placed the level of impairment at around 90%. However, one of the doctors opined that the employee could return to work with significant restrictions.
The employer argued that, taking the worker’s whole-body impairment level into account, as well as the fact that the doctor’s opinion was that he could return to work, permanent workers’ compensation benefits were not appropriate. The commissioner overseeing the claim determined that the injured worker was 48% impaired. Since the total level of impairment was less than 50%, total disability benefits were not appropriate. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the decision.
The injured worker appealed to the state’s supreme court, and that court reversed the lower court’s decision. The court focused on the medical evidence presented and stated that there was no basis for the commissioner’s determination that the worker’s impairment level was 48%. The court considered all of the medical evidence, which clearly placed the level of impairment at over 50%. The court continued to say that the mere fact that a plaintiff can return to work cannot act as an overriding factor when the medical evidence suggests total disability benefits would be appropriate.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Workplace Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Georgia workplace accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. As you can see, successfully obtaining workers’ compensation benefits is not always an easy process. Sometimes employers will contest various facts about a workplace injury, arguing that benefits are not appropriate. For this reason, it is important for anyone who has been injured on the job to consult with a dedicated Georgia workers’ compensation attorney. The skilled workers’ compensation attorneys at J. Franklin Burns, P.C. have extensive experience handling all types of workplace injury claims and know how to be successful in Georgia courts. Call 404-303-7770 to schedule your free consultation today.