Precedent Impacts Workers’ Compensation Disability Claims

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If you’ve experienced a workplace injury, chances are you’ve gone through a number of steps to establish that the incident did indeed result in an injury, and you’ve filed for Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) payments through workers’ compensation insurance. Hopefully, that process went smoothly, and your employer has accommodated your disability by placing you on light duty, adjusting your work hours, or otherwise ensuring that you are able to retain your job.  If you recovered fully within 104 weeks, all is well, and you can return to your previous level of engagement at work. But what if the recovery has not been as successful as you’d hoped? What are your alternatives now? A Greenville, SC workers compensation attorney may be able to help.

Jones v. Food Lion

Vincent Jones found himself in precisely this situation following an on-the-job accident.  His 104 weeks of benefits expired, yet his injuries prevented him from returning to work. Even so, further benefits were denied by workers’ compensation.  Seeing no other alternative, Jones filed suit based on a precedent set by a previous case.

Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg

In this case, Westphal collected benefits for a Temporary Total Disability (TTD) until the benefits expired.  He then attempted to qualify for Permanent Total Disability (PTD), but was unable to do so because he’d not reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).

When the court considered the situation, it found that it was unconstitutional to deny payments related to a disability resulting from a workplace injury simply because an arbitrary time period of 104 weeks had expired, if the worker was still unable to be gainfully employed.

While Jones had been looking to secure further benefits related to partial disability payments, and Westphal wanted an extension of total disability payments, the premise behind both arguments was based on the same foundation: arbitrary timelines should not be the basis for determining whether or not injured workers receive needed benefits.

Back to the Jones Case…

After considering the issues in the Westphal case, the Appellate Court found in favor of Jones, stating that benefit gaps were unconstitutional in situations involving both partial and total disability benefits and extended TPD payments for up to 260 weeks for Jones.

What Does it Mean for South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the number of weeks allowed for disability compensation differs from other states.  But the precedents set in both the Jones and Westphal cases indicated that whatever is on the books may be subject to adjustment in particular situations.  

If you are experiencing difficulties when it comes to getting the workers’ compensation payments necessary, you should know that these laws are complex, and are subject to change at any given time.  Having an experienced and knowledgeable Greenville, SC workers compensation attorney fighting on your behalf can make all the difference in the world. That’s why at the first sign of trouble, you need to call Dan Pruitt Law Firm.  Our team works tirelessly on workers’ compensation issues and will strive to achieve the best possible outcomes for you.  Schedule a free, confidential consultation in Greenville today.

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