A relatively recent Arizona court case may present challenges for employees who sustain multiple workplace injuries in a single accident. In this case, a workplace accident caused injuries to a man's knee and ankle. The man sought workers' compensation benefits, and the employer agreed in principle to cover them.
The Arizona Court of Appeals held that both injuries were properly treated as "scheduled" injuries. As a "scheduled" injury, Arizona's workers' compensation laws specifically provided what sort of benefits the employee should receive for his injured right leg. The Court therefore awarded him benefits according to the letter of the law.
The worker argued instead that due to the multiple injuries he suffered on the same leg, he had in fact sustained an "unscheduled" disability of that leg; that is, an injury not specifically provided for in Arizona's laws. Typically, an employee will receive higher benefits if he or she suffers from one "unscheduled" disability as opposed to one "scheduled" injury.
While the Court acknowledged that the worker raised some valid points, the Court left it to Arizona's lawmakers to change Arizona's worker's compensation laws if they so chose. In the meantime, the Court concluded that because the man had suffered injuries to same part of his body in the same accident, he had in fact one "scheduled" injury and was only entitled to the lower amount of benefit payments.
While we have in this blog more than once repeated that injured workers need not worry about their "fault" when applying for workers' compensation benefits, this does not necessarily make the system a "slam dunk" for every injured employee - far from it. As this case illustrates, a number of complicated factors, like how a worker's injuries are characterized, can significantly impact the amount of benefits that injured worker receives.
Source: Risk & Insurance, "Worker's argument for unscheduled compensation falls flat," Oct. 29, 2012