Just because a claimant obtains allowance of a new condition in his or her workers’ compensation claim, and undergoes further treatment such as surgery for that condition, it does not automatically mean that the claimant is entitled to a new period of temporary total disability benefits. If there is evidence that the claimant has abandoned his or her prior employment and never returned to the work force before the surgery, then the benefits can be denied. This was the holding of the Tenth District Court of Appeals in State ex rel. Goff v. Indus. Comm., 2016-Ohio-7270.
In Goff, the claimant suffered a fractured leg in 2008. The claim was additionally allowed for psychological conditions and the claimant then received one year of temporary total disability benefits, six months of living maintenance, and another year of non-working wage loss compensation. Finally, in 2012, claimant’s treating physician released her to return to work with no restrictions. Unfortunately, the claimant did not return to work. Instead, in late 2012, she applied for and was granted recognition of an additional condition in the claim. She then underwent surgery to correct that condition. She subsequently filed for temporary total disability benefits while she recovered from the surgery. The Industrial Commission, however, denied her request based upon the reasoning that claimant never reentered the work force after being released to full duty and, therefore, there were no lost wages that needed to be replaced with temporary total compensation.
The claimant filed a mandamus action arguing that the Commission ignored evidence that she had submitted establishing that she tried to find other work but because of economic conditions in the area where she lived, there was no work available to her. The Court rejected this argument and instead ruled that because there was no documentation to establish her job search and there was not any evidence to establish that the workplace injury prevented her from finding other employment, there was justification for the Commission’s decision.
This case highlights an important consideration when dealing with renewed requests for temporary total disability benefits. Employers should keep in mind that if the claimant was released to full duty and made no effort to reenter the work force, it can be argued that there are no lost wages to warrant an award of temporary total disability compensation.