WORKERS COMP: COLWELL V. DRESSER INSTRUMENT DIV. (SC 11/22/2006)

COLWELL V. DRESSER INSTRUMENT DIV.
Workers Compensation:  Reopening
2006-SC-000048-WC.pdf
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING IN PART, REVERSING IN PART, AND REMANDING 
DATE RENDERED: 11/22/2006

In this case, the Supreme Court changes the rules for re-opening a workers’ compensation award.

The workers’ compensation statute permits reopening of an award or settlement within four years if the claimant can prove a “worsening of impairment” due to the injury. This was usually interpreted to mean an increase of permanent impairment rating under the A.M.A. Guides.

However, the Supreme Court in this case holds that where the claimant is totally disabled on re-opening, he needs to make a prima facie showing of an increase in “impairment”, which is defined as loss of use of a body part or organ system, by objective medical evidence. The Court reasoned that the statute does not refer to impairment ratings or permanent disability ratings which are defined under the statute, but uses the more general term “impairment”, and would have referred to the precise terms if the legislature had intended that to be the standard.

The worsening of impairment standard is going to be difficult to define, but it will allow for greater latitude in granting reopenings. The standard still appears to be a worsening of impairment rating under the A.M.A. Guides if the claimant is only partially disabled on re-opening.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are inappropriate, offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.