No one wants to be injured at work and thus be unable to continue working to pay one’s bills. Worker’s compensation exists to assist employees who may have been badly injured in the workplace. Among the benefits that may be paid after an employee has suffered a debilitating injury are temporary total disability benefits, (TTD), and supplemental earnings benefits (SEB). TTD benefits are awarded on an employee’s proof that he or she cannot work at all following injury, equal to two-thirds of the pre-injury wages. La.R.S. 23:1221(1)(c). Supplemental earnings benefits are paid out when an employee is limited in his or her earning capability following an injury, payable at two-thirds of the difference between wages before the injury and those earned after returning to work. La.R.S. 23:1221(3)(a)(i). Upon proof of an employee’s ability to work productively, an employer may be able to change the higher TTD payments to SEB payments.
In Louisiana, just because an employee has suffered from conditions that predate an incident of injury does not mean that that employee is to be prevented from recovery under worker’s compensation for that work-related injury. If some accident in the workplace aggravates or reinjures a part of the body that has been previously injured, and this aggravation is to the point of disability, then an injured employee may bring a claim for disability. The plaintiff still must prove that the workplace injury in question caused the disability. However, it is enough to show that the injury could be factored into the chain of events that created the disability. In this situation, the employee must show only that the disability did not exist before the accident, that the symptoms arose after the accident, and evidence that tends to show that it is possible that the disability could have resulted from the alleged incident.
As people age, their bodies become frailer and prone to injury. Medical procedures necessary to restore one’s abilities to function in daily life as well as the workplace have beneficial effects but can also leave a person vulnerable to an increased risk of injuries. These factors, alone or combined, can mean that an injury that does not sound very serious can prove debilitating to a person, as Cathy Turner discovered. In December 2011. the 60-year-old Ms. Turner was a full-time admissions coordinator at the Lexington House nursing home in Alexandria, Louisiana. On December 12th, she was accidentally struck on the hip by a swinging door. This injury just so happened to be at the same location as her recent total hip replacement surgery in September of 2011. This was the site of two previous hip surgeries as well. After this incident, she experienced a tremendous amount of pain and inability to walk or even stand on the injured hip. Multiple doctors concluded that Ms. Turner had become disabled due to the injury and the additional surgery required to help ease the constant pain. The extent of her injuries necessitated that she obtain a motorized scooter in order to get around when before she had been able to walk. As such, the evidence tended to show that the disability stemmed from the work injury rather than the several pre-injury operations. Most people who undergo these varieties of surgeries, according to the medical evidence, generally see improvement. Regardless, Lexington House refused to pay the disability payments, claiming that her preexisting condition the three previous surgeries. The company also did not pay any supplemental earnings or for necessary medical tests. Ms. Turner filed a worker’s compensation claim. The Office of Worker’s Compensation (OWC) ordered her employer to pay her disability payments, an award for reconstructive surgery and medications, and penalties for failing to pay out certain specified benefits.