Archive for August, 2012

Workers Compensation: After Termination for Cause, Claimant Has Burden to Prove Causal Relation Between Injury and Inability to Find Work

In Veolia Environmental Services v. Vick, 309 Ga.App. 658 (2011), the claimant was injured when he fell off a piece of equipment at work and began receiving TTD benefits until he returned to light duty work. After he was terminated for failing to follow the employer’s drug policy, the claimant sought an award of TPD benefits from the time he returned to light duty until his last day of work, in addition to TTD benefits from his last day of work and continuing. After a hearing, the ALJ denied TTD benefits because the claimant had not made a sincere and diligent effort to find other work. However, the ALJ did award TPD benefits for the requested time period following termination and further concluded that such benefits should continue because the employer had not met its burden to prove a change in condition.

On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals noted that if a claimant accepts TPD benefits and does not seek to return to a higher benefit level of TTD, then the lower benefit level of TPD would continue after termination of the light-duty job. Here, the claimant requested and was awarded TPD benefits during the time he returned to light duty and then further sought TTD benefits after termination of his light-duty job. Under such circumstances, the claimant has the burden of proving his entitlement to the higher level of benefits requested after termination. Furthermore, in seeking a resumption of benefits, the burden is on the claimant to show that, after his termination for cause, his inability to secure suitable employment elsewhere was proximately caused by his work-related injury. Therefore, the Court held that because the claimant failed to make a sincere and diligent effort to secure other employment, the claimant could not prove that his inability to find a job was causally related to his injury.

For more information, please contact Timothy J. Buckley III, Esq. at (404) 633-9230.

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