From the Files of Powell and Denny
Today in “From the Files of Powell and Denny,” I am going to go over an Alabama workers compensation suit we had in Scottsboro, AL, in Jackson County.
Our client was employed by Kotobukiya Treves North America, Inc., and one day while pulling a hydraulic jack he felt and sharp pain in his lower back. Our client gave notice of his injury as required by law and was sent to see a company doctor. An MRI revealed that he had suffered a herniated disc at L4-5, and Dr. Ghavam at The Orthopedic Center recommended surgery, but the workers’ compensation adjuster initially denied the surgery and later delayed granting approval for the surgery. Our client asked the adjuster if he needed to hire an attorney and was told that he did not, that surgery would be approved and once he had reached maximum medical improvement, they would settle the case with him.
Our client continued to perform his job duties while going to physical therapy and receiving epidural injections, but he was paid his full salary even when he was not at work and was receiving therapy. Eventually, 2 years after his injury, the adjuster approved surgery and after having the herniated disc at L4-5 repaired, our client was placed at maximum medical improvement and given an impairment rating. When our client called the adjuster to discuss the settlement he had been promised, he was told that his statute of limitation had expired and that he would not receive any money for his permanent injury; that is when he hired our firm, and we immediately filed suit.
The defense attorney filed a Motion to Dismiss the suit, arguing that since the statute of limitations had expired, our client was not legally entitled to receive any monetary compensation for his injury. Oral arguments took place before Judge John Graham in Jackson County, Alabama, and we were able to show the Court that while the statute of limitations had technically expired, the actions of the workers compensation adjuster in misleading our client and the payment of his full wages while he missed work to attend physical therapy tolled the statute of limitations.
You see, while generally in cases arising from a traumatic event/accident, the injured workers has two years from the date of their job injury-or two years from the date they last received temporary total disability benefits– to have settled their claim or filed suit, “…payments of compensation, as distinguished from medical or vocational payments, have been made in any case, the period of limitation shall not begin to run until the time of making the last payment.” This means that since the defendant-Kotobukiya Treves North America-knew that our client was missing work to receive medical treatment for his job injury and they paid him even when he was not at work performing any job duties, the payment of his salary would toll the statute of limitations.
Moreover, concerning the representation made by the workers’ compensation adjuster, the law in Alabama is clear:
“The representations of an employer or its insurance carrier may be such as to estop them from asserting the statute of limitations as a bar to a claim for workmen’s compensation, if the employer or carrier, or their representatives, in their dealings with the claimant, conduct themselves in such a manner, whether innocently or fraudulently, as to mislead the claimant into believing that he can postpone the filing of his claim until the period of limitations has expired.”
Ex parte Youngblood, 413 So.2d 1146 (Ala.1981), on remand, 413 So.2d 1151 (Ala.Civ.App.1981), reversed and remanded, 413 So.2d 1153 (Ala.1982)
By telling our client that after he reached maximum medical improvement they would settle with him, the adjuster misled our client and convinced him that he did not need to worry about the statute of limitations or contact an attorney. What the adjuster was attempting to do was to lie to our client and prolong the claim until the statute of limitations ran, and thereby save the workers’ compensation insurance company the money our client was entitled to receive, and such actions are not allowed by law.
Judge Graham ruled in our favor and allowed the lawsuit to proceed, and in time our client received a settlement with lifetime medical benefits and he kept his job with KTNA.
If you have suffered a work injury and have been told by the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster or their attorneys that you are not entitled to monetary compensation because your statute of limitations expired-don’t give up. Contact Powell and Denny and speak with one of the experienced workers compensation lawyers and schedule a free consultation and let us see if we can help. Appointments are available in person, or virtually through Zoom for your convenience from wherever you live.
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From the Files of Powell and Denny