Ashley Heinrich v. Area Ambulance Authority, Inc. and Accident Fund Insurance Co. of America is an Appeal Decision filed by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner on December 18, 2020. The Claimant quit her job and obtained new employment while her work comp case was pending. Fortunately, the case turned out fine for the Claimant, but I have seen a lot of cases where leaving for a new job has a very negative impact on the case.
The dangers of leaving a job while you have a work comp case pending are:
- To the extent the injury worsens or new problems are identified, the job change gives the first employer a good start to the argument that the problem is from the new job.
- Many Defendants are willing to pay extra money in a settlement which includes the injured employer resigning their employment. By voluntarily leaving a job, the Claimant gives up this element of recovering money.
- If you end up missing work at your second job because of problems with the injury, the first employer has a much stronger argument for not having to pay workers’ compensation benefits for your missed time from work.
In the Heinrich case the Claimant began working as an EMT in March of 2015.
In February of 2016 she reported a back injury while helping to lift a patient into a gurney.
The Claimant’s symptoms from the lifting injury were primarily in her low back. The evaluation and treatment of the Claimant was complicated by the fact that the Claimant was five months pregnant.
The Claimant gave birth to a healthy baby daughter on July 4, 2016.
The ongoing medical treatment primarily indicated a problem with the sacroiliac joint which links the pelvis and the spine.
The Claimant left her EMT position in January of 2018 to begin working first for the Cedar Rapids Community School District and then with the College Community School District.
It was not until May of 2019 that the doctors discovered that the Claimant had a tear of the labrum in her right hip, and the Claimant underwent hip surgery on July 1, 2019.
The case came on for hearing on November 4, 2019. At the time of the workers’ compensation hearing the Claimant had not yet reached maximum medical improvement or obtained an impairment rating for her hip injury.
The employer and insurance company agreed that the Claimant had suffered a low back injury, but argued that the hip injury that was discovered over three years later was not work related. At both the workers’ compensation trial and in the appeal proceedings, the Commissioner’s office fortunately found that the Claimant’s hip injury had arisen out of and in the course of employment, and that the employer was responsible for the medical expenses relating to the hip injury. The Commissioner also ruled that the Claimant would be entitled to bring another proceeding to receive an award of permanency benefits after the hip injury had reached maximum medical improvement.
Staying at a job you do not like can be very hard. However, for work comp purposes it is usually worth while to stay until after your case is resolved.