Driver's TTD benefits not automatically blocked by receipt of SSD
Manchester v. Drivers Management, L.L.C., No. S-09-062 (Neb. 10/30/09).
The Nebraska Supreme Court held that there was a causal link between the accident and the driver's psychological injuries and affirmed the finding that the driver was not precluded from receiving temporary total disability benefits. It reversed the review panel's determination that the driver was not entitled to penalties, interest and attorney's fees.
What it means:
In Nebraska, when an employee has resumed gainful employment, her receipt of Social Security benefits based on an earlier determination of total disability does not prevent her from receiving workers' compensation benefits.
A worker was awarded Social Security total disability benefits for mental conditions. She found employment as truck driver through a vocational rehabilitation program, but was injured when her truck slid off the road. She was terminated for negligence. She alleged that her mental condition worsened from her injuries and termination, and she filed for workers' compensation benefits. The employer argued that because the SSA determined she was totally disabled, she had no earning capacity to lose and was ineligible for benefits. The Supreme Court upheld the review panel's determination that at the time of her accident, the driver was in the labor force and working her way off Social Security disability. She therefore had earning power to lose as a result of the accident. It noted that the driver resumed gainful employment and worked for the employer for 13 months before the accident. The SSA's determination that at one point she was totally disabled did not prevent her from later receiving benefits for loss of earning capacity due to her employment.
The court rejected the employer's argument that there was no causal connection between her depression and the accident and injuries. The court pointed out that the driver's doctor stated that her depression and anxiety-related symptoms were substantially caused and significantly exacerbated after the physical injuries, as well as her unexpected and perceived unfair dismissal from her job. It noted it would not disturb these factual findings unless the lower court was "clearly wrong."
The driver argued she should be awarded penalties, interest and attorney's fees based on the employer's refusal to pay benefits.
The court ordered the employer to pay a 50 percent waiting-time penalty. It determined that: 1) the employer had failed to pay within 30 days of the notice of disability; and 2) there was no reasonable controversy regarding her claim for benefits, as the employer did not properly allege the driver was willfully negligent.
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December 28, 2009
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