Trucker awarded benefits for original injury despite intervening employment
Case name: Trucks, Inc., et al. v. Trowell, No. A09A1624 (Ga. Ct. App. 02/08/10).
Ruling: The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the benefits award to a truck driver. It determined her initial injury rather than a change in condition or new accident affected her ability to work.
What it means: In Georgia, the original employer may be liable for benefits where there is evidence that the initial job-related injury is the sole reason an employee is unable to work.
Summary: A truck driver injured her shoulder using a hand crank at work. Her employer accepted her claim as medical-only and paid for her treatment. She resigned due to a work slowdown. The driver accepted a driving job with a different company but later resigned because work was slow. Her shoulder pain continued, and her doctor advised her to stop working until she could undergo surgery. Her original employer refused to pay for surgery or medical treatment, arguing that her injury was worsened or aggravated by her use of a manual gear shift in her subsequent employment.
The employer also argued she had to prove that her present disability resulted from a change in condition. The Georgia Appeals Court upheld the benefits award and determined the driver did not have to establish a change in her condition. The change in condition rule is only applicable if the claimant received income benefits, the court noted. Here, the employer had paid only medical benefits. The court determined her injury was attributed solely to the single injury she sustained with the first employer and upheld the benefits award.
A new accident is defined as a gradual worsening of a preexisting injury due to an aggravation by work duties or a specific job-related incident. The court determined that there was no new accident. The driver testified that she was only injured once and denied her shoulder pain increased over time. Rather, she asserted that her initial injury remained essentially the same from the time of the injury until her doctor's recommendation that she cease work. She further testified that her work at the second company was "lighter work."
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March 15, 2010
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