Prevailing Against All Odds: Triumphing in a Workers’ Compensation Claim

louisiana_shrimp_boats_grand-1024x709In the realm of lawsuits, there are always two sides to the story, presenting challenges in determining who will emerge victorious. However, even when faced with factual disputes, there is still hope for success in your worker’s compensation claim. The case of David Thibodaux, a truck driver for Grand Isle Shipyard, serves as a prime example of overcoming obstacles in the pursuit of justice. Despite skepticism about the origin of his injuries and facing resistance from his employer, Thibodaux’s perseverance and the support of a skilled attorney led to a favorable outcome. This story emphasizes the crucial role of legal counsel in guiding individuals through the complexities of workers’ compensation claims and ensuring the presentation of compelling evidence to support their case.

Thibodaux was allegedly injured while working as a truck driver for Grand Isle Shipyard. He was driving a truck in Isabel, Louisiana picking up sand. His truck stalled in a pothole he had attempted to drive through, and the front axle of his truck broke. Thibodaux claimed the truck bounced around, and he hit his arm on an armrest. He was eventually able to stabilize the vehicle. 

Within a few days, Thibodaux informed his supervisor he was injured. He claimed his supervisor did nothing in response. Approximately eight days later, Grand Isle Shipyard terminated Thibodaux. He claimed at the time of his termination, he had not filed a workers’ compensation claim, nor had anyone at Grand Isle Shipyard informed him of how to file such a claim. However, before his termination, Thibodaux had visited his doctor related to the accident because of ear and neck pain. His doctor prescribed him various pain medications. Nevertheless, Thibodaux continued to have pain and sought additional medical treatment. 

Thibodaux’s attorney corresponded with Grand Isle Shipyard’s worker’s compensation adjustor about Thibodaux’s need for medical treatments and indemnification. The adjustor responded they needed additional information. As a result, Thibodaux filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation with the Office of Worker’s Compensation (“OWC”). After a trial, the OWC found that Thibodaux met his burden of proof concerning his accident and resulting injury and awarded him supplemental earning benefits based on his period of zero earning capacity, medical payments, attorneys’ fees and costs, and penalties. Grand Isle Shipyard appealed the decision.

The appellate court applied the manifest error-clearly wrong standard to determine whether the OWC’s determinations were reasonable. Thibodaux’s employer claimed he did not provide sufficient evidence that his injuries arose from his employment, as required under La. R.S. 23:1031

The appellate court found conflicting testimony at trial about Thibodaux’s accident. While Thibodaux testified he had been injured from his on-the-job accident, some (but not all) medical testimony suggested he had preexisting medical conditions. The appellate court found that where there was conflicting testimony, it deferred to the trial court’s factual findings. The appellate court also agreed Thibodaux had provided sufficient documentation and information to award supplemental earning benefits. Although his employer claimed he did not comply with the requirements in La. R.S. 23:1221(3)(f) to timely report to them his supplemental earnings benefit loss, the appellate court noted his employer was aware Thibodaux was unemployed because they fired him. The appellate court also noted that the doctor who had treated Thibodaux the longest documented severe pain from his injuries and imposed physical limitations. The appellate court also rejected the employer’s argument it was improper to award Thibodaux attorney’s fees and penalties, finding the employer had not reasonably challenged his claim. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the OWC’s judgment in favor of Thibodaux. 

The story of David Thibodaux’s triumph in his workers’ compensation claim highlights perseverance, thorough documentation, and the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney. Despite conflicting testimonies and resistance from his employer, Thibodaux’s commitment to seek justice prevailed. This case serves as a reminder that individuals should not be discouraged from pursuing their rightful benefits. Consulting with an experienced attorney and presenting compelling evidence to achieve a favorable outcome is possible.

Additional Sources: David Thibodaux, Jr. v. Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., et al

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Workers’ Compensation Claims: When Coworkers Attack: Negligence Claims for Intentional Workplace Injuries

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