Thursday, December 15, 2005

Nebraska Supreme Court (J. Gerrard) rules that there may be only one date at a time for reaching maximum medical improvement from multiple injuries arising from one accidentSupremes overrule Nebraska worker compensation court judge's decision assigning separate dates for maximum medical improvement for discrete injuries arising from one industrial accident. Rodriguez v. Hirschbach Motor Lines, 270 Neb. 757 Filed December 9, 2005. No. S-05-141. Rodriguez, suffered injuries to his neck, shoulder, knees, and back, in addition to severe depression, from a work accident. The trial court found he reached maximum medical improvement with respect to all of those injuries except his knees. Supreme Court issue: did the worker comp court err in concluding that Rodriguez had reached maximum medical improvement with respect to some but not all of his injuries, and denying permanent disability benefits for those injuries, instead of waiting until all his injuries could be considered together in assessing Rodriguez' loss of earning power. The worker compensation review panel approved of the separated MMI dates for the scheduled (knees) and the unscheduled (head neck, back, depression) injuries, reasoning that the holding of Zavala v Conagra Beef 265 Neb. 188, 655 N.W.2d 692 (2003) {court may consider effect of scheduled injuries (limbs etc) on loss of earning capacity arising from a whole body injury}permitted but did not require the Court to determine MMI when the worker reached for all injuries. the Supreme Court holds:
"even if medical evidence establishes that a claimant's different injuries have different dates of maximum medical recovery, the legally significant date--the date of maximum medical improvement for purposes of ending a workers' compensation claimant's temporary disability--is the date upon which the claimant has attained maximum medical recovery from all of the injuries sustained in a particular compensable accident. "
the court adds on a puzzling dictum however when it notes that an injured worker may have suffered one injury that will render him permanently disabled while other components of his injury may not have reached the MMI point.
" We recognize that there may be circumstances in which a claimant's permanent disability may be ascertainable even though not all of the claimant's injuries have reached maximum medical healing. For instance, where it is apparent that one injury of multiple injuries has reached maximum medical healing and will render a claimant permanently and totally disabled, it may be possible to award permanent total disability benefits even before the claimant reaches maximum medical healing with respect to all the injuries resulting from an accident. See, e.g., State, ex rel. Galion Mfg., v. Haygood, 60 Ohio St. 3d 38, 573 N.E.2d 60 (1991). "

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