The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled that an injured employee may be awarded workers’ compensation benefits even if the employee had received unemployment benefits during the same period of time. In Platinum v Collings, 988 NE 2d 1153 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), the employee suffered a serious injury when a wall fell on him. He was off work for a few weeks and received temporary total disability benefits (TTD). After being released to return to work at no restrictions, the employer closed its business and everyone was laid off. The injured employee, who was still suffering pain from the injury, applied for and received unemployment. He even tried to work a couple of jobs, but was unable to keep working because of his pain. The workers’ compensation board appointed a doctor to perform an independent medical examination or IME, and that doctor stated more treatment was needed and that the employee had been disabled since the date of his injury.
The board ordered payment of TTD minus the amounts the employee received in unemployment. The employer argued that since the employee accepted unemployment, he was representing that he was able to work, so TTD should not be paid. However, the Court, in a well-reasoned opinion, held that TTD is due when the injury causes the employee to be unable to do work of the same character and nature, and that unemployment is available if the employee can do any work. Therefore, it is possible to be eligible for both benefits at the same time, but the employee may only receive one. As such, the Court held the employee is entitled to TTD benefits minus amounts paid for unemployment.
This is a very important decision for injured employees in Indiana. Many times employees who are on temporary restrictions are laid off and the employer refuses to pay TTD benefits in a timely fashion. Therefore, the employee applies for and receives unemployment because it is much faster to get. The problem is that the employer then claims TTD is not owed because the employee is representing to the unemployment that he can work.
Now, that argument will not prevail. If you are laid off while on temporary restrictions for a work injury, and the employer refuses to pay you TTD, and you are forced to apply for unemployment so you will have some kind of income, be sure to tell the unemployment office about the temporary restrictions that the doctor has placed. The Platinum case is authority that you can argue for TTD later.
Nathan B. Maudlin