Aggravation of depression that is disabling warrants modifying award
Case name: Jurgens v. Irwin Industrial Tool Co., No. A-12-184 (Neb. Ct. App. 01/22/13).
Ruling: The Nebraska Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to additional benefits because her work-related injury caused an increase in incapacity due to the worsening of her depression.
What it means: In Nebraska, an injured worker is not required to reach maximum medical improvement before she can modify an award.
A worker sustained two work-related injuries. She was awarded benefits for her injuries and an aggravation of her preexisting depression that was not work disabling. She began a vocational rehabilitation program in early childhood education. Over time, her shoulder pain became so severe that it prevented her from sleeping and attending some of her classes. She had surgery that did not reduce her pain, and her doctor said that further treatment options were not available. The worker said that she was in constant pain and felt overwhelmed, and she dropped out of her program. She sought to modify her award, claiming an increase in incapacity due solely to her work-related injuries. The Nebraska Court of Appeals held that she was entitled to additional benefits.
The court found that her shoulder pain increased, causing an aggravation of her preexisting depression that became disabling. Her doctors said that she suffered a worsening of her anxiety and depression and needed depression treatment before "reintroduction" to the workplace. The court explained that the worker was not required to reach MMI before modifying her award.
The court also found that the worker's depression was related solely to her work injury. Her doctor said that her increased pain and her resulting inability to finish her program exacerbated her depression. Her husband said that she became "hopeless" after surgery failed to alleviate her pain.
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May 13, 2013
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