Employee Fights for Temporary Total Disability

This situation involved a law enforcement officer – a member of the New Orleans Police Department – who was hurt at work. He made a claim for workers’ compensation benefits because he was too hurt to work. The on the job accident caused injuries his back, left foot, right knee and right arm.

The injured worker was treated by numerous doctors and had foot surgery. Following surgery he was cared for by an orthopedist. Unfortunately his orthopedic care was unsuccessful. At the recommendation of his employer the worker began treating with a neurosurgeon. He was able to return to work, but had to miss from time to time and collected temporary total disability checks when he was out. Temporary total disability (TTD) is when a person can’t perform any work at all due to their injuries but a doctor hasn’t said the problems are permanent. The payments are based on the workers “average weekly wage” which is based on the money earned in the four weeks before the on the job accident.

Making things worse, a second on the job accident aggravated his injuries again. The NOPD released the officer because he wasn’t able to meet the physical requirements of the job. He continued getting temporary total disability payments. The NOPD eventually had the worker go through vocational rehabilitation. Based on the voc rehab his temporary total disability benefits to supplemental earnings benefits (SEB), finding that employee possessed at least some earning potential. SEB is the difference between what a person was making before the injury and what he or she can make afterwards. Unlike TTD which can go on indefinitely, SEB ends after 52 weeks of indemnity benefits of any type are paid.

The employee claimed the NOPD shouldn’t have switched him to SEB and made a claim with the Office of Workers Compensation by filing a Disputed Claim for Compensation alleging the switch was improper. The NOPD filed a motion for summary judgment which stated there was no facts in dispute about the employee being able to work and therefore the conversion was proper. Judge Robert Varnado agreed and dismissed the employees claim. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal concluded that material factual issues as to whether the employee’s benefits were correctly converted and if so, whether the reduction was proper; therefore this case was not appropriate for summary judgment and the workers benefits were reinstated at the TTD level.
Carambat v. City of New Orleans Police Dept. 14–CA–0810 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2/4/15), 160 So.3d 1031.

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