NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.
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David Helfrich suffered four work-related injuries while working for Coca-Cola Bottling. Helfrich’s third accident occurred on March 12, 2008, when he injured his right foot on a truck lift gate. The compensation rate for this injury was $672.98. Helfrich’s final injury occurred on May 20, 2009, when he hurt his right knee and ankle while stepping off a forklift. The compensation rate at that time was $634.28. Following a for-cause termination on March 15, 2010, Helfrich filed a Form 33 alleging entitlement to indemnity benefits of $672.98 per week from and after March 16, 2010.
The case was heard by Deputy Commissioner Victoria M. Homick who entered an Order finding that Helfrich was entitled to receive temporary total disability payments at the rate of $634.28 per week from and after March 15, 2010. Helfrich appealed. The Full Commission affirmed, concluding that as a result of Helfrich’s third and fourth injuries, he was disabled from March 15, 2010 and continuing and entitled to temporary total disability compensation of $634.28 per week. Helfrich appealed that determination as well.
On March 5, 2013, in Helfrich v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co.,Consolidated, the Court of Appeals addressed the issue of the applicable compensation rate after March 15, 2010 and concluded that the Full Commission erred in basing the rate on the fourth injury exclusively. According to the Court, the Commission never determined whether Helfrich had received an injury for which compensation was payable while still receiving or being entitled to compensation for a previous injury in the same employment and, if so, which of the applicable compensation rates would cover the longest period and provide the largest amount payable as required by N.C.G.S. §97-34. Instead, the Commission simply found that Helfrich was disabled as a result of his March 12, 2008 and May 20, 2009 injuries, collectively, and was entitled to temporary total disability compensation at the lower May 20, 2009 rate. The Court remanded the case to the Commission for the entry of a new order which addressed the application of N.C.G.S. § 97-34, and analyzed which injury covered the longest period and provided the largest amount payable to Helfrich.
Risk Handling Hint: In situations of multiple, over-lapping, compensable injuries, risk managers are reminded to consider the application of N.C.G.S. § 97-34 in addition to the medical evidence of work limitations.