West Virginia Supreme Court Ruling Changes Workers’ Compensation Disability Determinations (Business Insurance)

West Virginia Supreme Court Ruling Changes Workers’ Compensation Disability Determinations

  Wednesday, April 24th, 2024 Source: Business Insurance

The West Virginia Supreme Court delivered a significant decision on Monday that revises the method for determining disability awards in workers’ compensation cases. This decision overturned a previous ruling by the Intermediate Court of Appeals which had affirmed a Workers’ Compensation Board of Review determination. The original case involved a Kanawha County sheriff’s deputy, David Duff II, who sustained a back injury while operating a bomb detector robot, leading to a disability claim.

The crux of the case was the consideration of apportionment for preexisting conditions in disability determinations. The Workers’ Compensation Board initially awarded Mr. Duff a 13% permanent partial disability, factoring in his preexisting conditions, despite an independent medical evaluation suggesting a 25% whole-person impairment directly from the work-related injury. The appeals court had upheld this decision, agreeing that apportionment was appropriate.

However, the state Supreme Court’s ruling has shifted the landscape, stating that unless the injury results in total permanent disability, preexisting conditions should not influence the determination of workers’ compensation. This ruling emphasizes that impairment should be considered distinctly from preexisting conditions, a distinction that could have broader implications for how workers’ compensation claims are evaluated in West Virginia.

The case has now been remanded to the workers’ compensation review board to increase Mr. Duff’s disability award to the full 25% initially indicated by his medical assessment. This decision is a pivotal moment for workers in West Virginia, potentially making it easier for injured workers with preexisting conditions to receive higher disability awards.

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