Workers injured on the job are entitled to receive compensation for injuries. What many workers may not realize, though, is once those payments cease, they could be restarted if there is a material change in condition, stemming from the original injury, which requires additional treatment.

gavel22Florida Statute 440.15 is clear in holding that in instances where subsequent injury is suffered as a result of aggravation of the condition caused by the work-related incident, those injuries are covered. However, it’s going to be up to the worker to prove the causal connection.

Our Sarasota work injury lawyers understand this was the issue raised in Lenz v. Cent. Parking Sys. of Neb. , brought before the Nebraska Supreme Court. Although workers’ compensation statutes vary from state-to-state, the same general principles weighed in this case are applicable to Florida workers.

According to court records, the worker developed frostbite on one of his feet while working outdoors as a parking lot attendant. No one disputed the accident and subsequent injury arose out of the course of his employment.

The company did not fight the worker in covering expenses for his frostbite injury, which included two surgeries. He was also paid temporary total disability benefits totaling $2,250.

The following year, the worker moved out-of-state, though he continued to receive treatment for his frostbite injury. However, he sent his medical bills to his new home state’s indigent care program, rather than to his former employer.

Three years later, he returned to Nebraska. At that time, the ulcers he developed as a result of his frostbite injury still hadn’t healed, and he continued receiving medical treatment. At one point, he had to be hospitalized for an infection of one ulcer that spread to several of his toes, which had to be amputated.

A few months passed, and the worker filed a claim with the state’s workers’ compensation court, asking for temporary total and permanent partial disability benefits, as well as reimbursement for his medical bills and coverage for ongoing rehabilitation. This request was filed more than two years after his last payment from the employer had been received.

The employer responded by allowing the injury was compensable, but argued the claim was barred by the state’s statute of limitations.

The former worker argued his case fell under an exception established in White v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., which allowed benefits to be awarded outside the statute of limitations for a substantial and material worsening of the worker’s condition. A doctor testifying on his behalf indicated the worker did not reach maximum medical improvement until some six months after the partial amputation. The doctor further indicated the worker couldn’t work on a job on his feet or outdoors in cold weather without suffering further ulcers.

The workers’ compensation court agreed to award him benefits. The case was appealed, and was moved to the state supreme court for review. The employer insisted the request was time-barred, but the state supreme court affirmed.

The court noted the exception noted by the worker has been recognized by appellate courts numerous times since it was first established more than 25 years ago. Further, an injured employee can’t bring a claim for additional compensation until the material change has taken place. Therefore, the worker had two years from the time he knew that his condition had materially changed in which to seek compensation – not two  years from the time of the accident. Thus, the worker’s petition was timely filed, and benefits will be awarded.

If you are injured on the job, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Lenz v. Cent. Parking Sys. of Neb. , June 27, 2014, Nebraska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Florida Hit-and-Run Reform Awaits Gov. Scott’s Signature, June 27, 2014, Sarasota Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog