Any time an injured individual files a workers’ compensation case, it seems the process should be fairly straightforward. When they incur a work injury and the company is at fault, it is reasonable to assume that they will receive a just remedy to compensate for their injury. A recent Kansas Court of Appeals case, Pardo v. UPS, however, revealed that this process is not always so cut and dry.
Francisco Pardo, a UPS driver, was injured on the job and sustained a 10 percent permanent disability, as determined by a licensed physician. This injury rating led to an eventual settlement between Pardo and UPS. When he later sustained an injury on the job to the same place and was given an additional 5 percent rating of disability, Pardo was shocked to find that his request to remedy the second injury was denied. Under the AMA Guides 6th Edition mandated by the state, only one rating to the same body part may be given in a lifetime.
The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled that this provision in the state’s workers’ compensation law was unconstitutional, citing the Kansas Bill of Rights which guarantees that “all persons, for injuries suffered in person, reputation, or property, shall have remedy by due course of law.”
Attorneys tasked with representing and protecting laborers in workers’ compensation cases have a duty to recognize and challenge these types of discrepancies in the law.
The practice of mandated workers’ compensation laws at the state level dates back to the 1917 US Supreme Court case New York Central Railroad Company v. White, which upheld the constitutionality of workers’ compensation. It is up to the states to ensure this standard is fully and correctly applied to workers in the state, for all too often, laws are too restrictive to meet a reasonable standard of accountability for a worker’s right to compensation.
Many states still require physical injuries to be present for mental injury claims to be eligible for compensation. In Pennsylvania, the cutoff for disease claims must be filed within 300 weeks of exposure to the disease, even when some diseases such as certain cancers and blood diseases can take upwards of 1,000 weeks to display symptoms. For some, the path to a “remedy by due course of law” may never be achieved due to technicalities in the law that often go unnoticed.
It is the job of attorneys to routinely study the law to point out these discrepancies and bring them to public light. Legal codes vary from state to state, and what may be true in Kansas may not be applicable to a case in South Carolina. Hiring an attorney for a workers’ compensation case can give an injured worker a strong chance of being able to understand and navigate the law as well as produce a reasonable and just result.