Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services, et al., No. 07-AA-888 (D.C. 10/01/09).
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the Compensation Review Board's order awarding temporary total disability benefits, finding the worker was not time-barred from filing a new claim for a different injury from the same date of accident.
What it means:
In the District of Columbia, a worker may initiate a new claim for disability benefits for a new injury that arises from a work-related accident even though a previous claim was filed. The worker is not restricted to modifying her claim, which would impose a one-year limitation period to file a new claim.
A worker was injured while taking part in a physical agility test for her employer. The injury was determined to have occurred in the course of her employment, and she was awarded medical benefits and temporary total disability benefits. Ten years later, she filed a claim for a new injury she said was caused by that accident. The injury was described as a "worsening" of her prior symptoms. The employer did not contest that her disability was caused by her work injury but argued that the worker was restricted to modifying her claim, which imposes a one-year limitation period. It argued that modification was the sole remedy when an employee seeks reinstatement of the same type of benefits previously awarded due to a new period of disability. The worker argued her claim was not barred by the time limit since she was not seeking modification but was instead seeking benefits for a new injury.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals rejected the employer's reasoning, concluding that it created an unnecessarily restrictive reading of the law.
The court explained that the employer's argument would impose a time cap on workers' claims for benefits. However, it pointed out that the one-year time limitation provision was not intended as a restrictive provision. Rather, it was intended to create an exception to the principles of claim and issue preclusion to allow workers to revisit their prior compensation awards. The court held that under the act, the worker had one year after the time she first became aware of, or should have become aware of, her injury to file a new claim for compensation benefits.
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November 12, 2009
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