Case name: Churchville v. Bruce R. Daly Mechanical Contractor, et al., No. 18546 (Conn. 12/14/10).
The Connecticut Supreme Court held that a widow was entitled to her deceased husband's permanent partial disability benefits.
What it means: In Connecticut, a worker's right to permanent partial disability benefits, as well as the entitlement by the worker's surviving spouse or dependent, vests when the worker reaches maximum medical improvement and does not depend on an affirmative request for benefits.
Summary: A worker sustained a compensable injury to his right shoulder and lumbar spine. When the worker's doctors reported that he reached MMI, the employer filed a form to discontinue temporary total incapacity benefits and commence payment on permanent partial disability benefits. While a settlement was pending, the worker died. His widow sought to have PPD benefits paid to her rather than to her husband's estate. The Connecticut Supreme Court held that the widow was entitled to the benefits.
The employer argued that the widow should not be entitled to the benefits because the worker did not make an affirmative request for them before his death. The court disagreed, noting that the beneficiaries of workers' compensation include both the injured worker and his dependents. The court said that a worker's right to disability benefits does not vest only upon the worker's request for benefits.
The court mentioned the difference between incapacity benefits and disability benefits. The entitlement to incapacity benefits depends on the worker's capacity to work, whereas entitlement to disability benefits depends on the establishment of a permanent disability and the extent of the disability. The court said concurrent payments for benefits for disability and incapacity are prohibited. In this case, the worker's right to disability benefits vested because he had reached MMI.
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January 27, 2011
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