Case name: Dorman v. State of Wyoming ex rel. Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, No. S-11-0292 (Wyo. 07/03/12).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court denied a foreman's request for an extension of his temporary total disability benefits and reimbursement for travel expenses to obtain medical care.
What it means: In Wyoming, a worker cannot receive extended TTD benefits just because his claim was disputed.
Summary: A construction foreman injured his back while lifting concrete panels. He was awarded temporary total disability benefits. He saw one doctor until the doctor retired. He changed his physician of record to a second physician. Later, he sought to change his physician again, stating that his condition was outside the second physician's expertise. The change was approved. He sought travel reimbursement for care by the third doctor and an extension of the 24 months of TTD benefits he was awarded. The Wyoming Supreme Court denied his requests for extended TTD benefits and reimbursement for travel expenses.
The court explained that TTD benefits cannot exceed a period of 24 months unless there are "extraordinary circumstances." The foreman did not prove extraordinary circumstances because he did not show he reasonably expected to return to gainful employment within 12 months. The court rejected the foreman's argument that the sole reason for his continued disability was a delay caused by the Workers' Safety and Compensation Division. The court said that the fact that a worker's benefits are disputed is not a basis for extended TTD benefits.
The foreman traveled several times to be treated by his third doctor, and he sought travel reimbursement. The court found that the second doctor was the closest available provider, so travel reimbursement was not warranted for the foreman's visits to the third doctor. The court noted that the second doctor's treatment notes did not suggest that he felt unqualified to treat the foreman. Also, the foreman did not question the second doctor to address his purported lack of qualifications. The court rejected the foreman's contention that the division engaged in a "bait and switch" when it approved the third doctor as his health provider and then denied reimbursement of travel expenses.
The foreman argued that the division had an obligation to provide guidance in locating the closest available physician. The court said that while it would have been helpful, the division was not obligated to do so.
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September 10, 2012
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