Normal gait, 'unclear etiology' of foot pain topple disability benefits
Case name: Ricketts v. Subaru of Indiana Automotive, No. 93A02-1008-EX-1030 (Ind. Ct. App. 03/15/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a worker was not entitled to disability benefits or reimbursement for unauthorized medical treatment after her work-related injury.
What it means: In Indiana, an injured worker cannot receive disability benefits without clear evidence finding the work injury was the cause of her pain.
Summary: A worker for an automobile manufacturer was performing functional tests on trucks after their assembly. She was unable to stop a truck as she drove it to the next station, and it crashed into an I-beam. The worker complained of neck, arm, and foot pain. The worker previously had plantar fasciitis release surgery and reported that her feet were "burning" like they were before the surgery. Numerous doctors stated that she walked with a normal gait and noted the "unclear etiology" of her foot pain. The worker continued to experience pain and sought disability and medical benefits. The Indiana Court of Appeals held that she was not entitled to disability benefits.
The worker argued that her foot pain symptoms before the work-related accident were different than what she experienced after the accident. The court said that no clear evidence definitively found the work injury to be the cause of her foot pain after the work incident.
The worker also argued that after treatment at a pain rehabilitation clinic, her pain decreased, and her functional capacity increased. The court disagreed, stating that the improvement at the time of her discharge was temporary. Two months after discharge, the worker said she was in severe pain. The court noted that the worker did not follow the clinic's recommendation to see a psychologist, and she resumed taking pain medication as well as antidepressants. The court decided the treatment was not reasonable and necessary, and the worker was not entitled to reimbursement for the medications or treatment at the pain clinic.
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May 9, 2011
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