Rusty injured his left arm while lifting heavy widgets at work with his employer, ABC Widget Company. The employer acknowledged the injury and began paying Rusty workers compensation wage loss benefits as Rusty was unable to work. Fortunately, Rusty received excellent medical care and was released to return to work without restriction by his doctor about six months after the injury occurred. At that time, his wage loss benefits were suspended. Before the injury, Rusty worked second shift and also worked some overtime hours when requested to do so. Upon returning to work after the injury, Rusty was advised that overtime was no longer available due to a downturn in the economy. While Rusty’s return to work hourly wage was the same as it had been before the injury, he was no longer working overtime so his paychecks were smaller.Rusty filed a petition before a Workers Compensation Judge seeking payment of partial disability benefits due to his current loss of earnings.
QUESTION: Is Rusty entitled to payment of partial disability benefits?
ANSWER: Not necessarily. Typically, in order to have his suspended benefits reinstated, Rusty had to prove that his earning power was again adversely affected by the injury that formed the basis of his original claim. With sufficient evidence to prove that Rusty’s loss of earnings was attributable to something other than his work injury (such as economic circumstances), Rusty’s reinstatement may be denied. Rusty’s medical release to return to work without restriction will assist ABC in demonstrating that Rusty’s loss in earnings was not caused by disability arising from the work-related injury, but by economic circumstances. In light of these circumstances, ABC will likely be able to prevail and the request for payment of partial benefits will likely fail.
Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.