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Woman denied benefits after complications due to workplace injury

What happens when a worker from Pennsylvania is injured on the job, returns after receiving compensation and eventually becomes unable to work due to complications associated with the original injury? According to a recent ruling in another state, that person is ineligible to receive workers' compensation benefits, even though the person's inability to work was related to a previous workplace accident.

The woman involved in this case worked as a carpet inspector and on Feb. 16, 1996, an incident occurred and her right foot was caught in a carpet roller. The injury she sustained forced physicians to partially amputate her foot. She spent 10 months on leave and received temporary total disability benefits for the entirety of her time off.

When she returned to work in January 1997, she was given a position in the customer service department. Here she spent her time sitting and standing at a desk, things she was capable of doing. Over time, she developed serious problems in both of her knees due to a change in her gait. This change was due to the prosthetic equipment she wore due to her partial amputation. According to records, she received bilateral knee surgery approximately four months after her return to work.

Twelve years later, she was still working in the customer service department of the same company. Her knees became so bad that in September 2009, she decided to stop working-this was due to a physician's recommendation made after she attempted to take time off and return several times. She then sought workers' compensation benefits from her employer because she was no longer able to work.

An administrative law judge awarded those benefits to her as did the workers' compensation board in her state. But when the company appealed the case to the Court of Appeals, it was found that her condition did not warrant benefits because it was not a new injury but a change in condition. The case made it to the state Supreme Court where the appeals decision was affirmed.

Source: HR.BLR.com, "Were worker's knee problems a compensable new injury?" Nov. 2, 2012

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Gregory R. Gifford
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