Marta v. Reid, an appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Georgia, involved the issue of whether there is a penalty for the late payment of workers’ compensation benefits.
The facts in the case were not disputed by either party. Claimant filed for workers’ compensation benefits following a 1999 on-the-job injury. A short time after filing the claim, employer started making payments. Claimant was determined to be entitled to 32 payments under a temporary total disability (TTD) rating.
Our attorneys who represent workers injured on the job in Charlotte, North Carolina understand that a claimant’s disability rating is used to determine the amount and duration of benefits. A worker who is completely disabled and not likely to ever recover would be given a rating of permanent total disability (PTD). A worker who suffered an on-the-job injury, such as losing the use of one arm, for example, might be given a partial permanent disability rating and a percentage of total disability would be assigned.
In Marta, twelve of the 32 payments were not paid in a timely fashion under the state workers’ compensation statute. In 2002, claimant returned to work and his workers’ compensation benefits payments were suspended. Eight years after returning to work, claimant demanded payment of the statutory penalty for late payment of benefits for each of the 12 late payments.
Employer refused claimant’s demand for payment and claimed that that the statute of limitations for making such a demand had already run, and he was not entitled to any penalty payments.
The employee appealed to the workers’ compensation board, which determined that the penalty demand was barred by the statute of limitations, and the board denied employee’s claim. The board considered this a change in condition claim that had a two-year statute of limitations. In North Carolina, Section 97-47 of the Workers’ Compensation Act sets the statute of limitation for change in conditions requests at either one year or two years depending on the type of change involved.
Upon appeal to the state superior court, the workers’ compensation commission ruling was affirmed. Claimant then appealed to the state court of appeals, and that court determined that the review was discretionary and reversed the lower courts by finding that this type of demand was not governed by the statute of limitations and therefore, was not time barred. The employer then appealed this ruling to the state supreme court.
On appeal, the court looked at the issue of whether this was a change in conditions demand. If not, as claimant contends, then it is not barred by the general statute of limitations, because he had timely filed his original claim that satisfied the statute of limitations.
The court ultimately found that this did constitute a change of status claim because employee’s status had changed eight years ago, when he became eligible to return to work. The court reasoned that a workers’ compensation proceeding needs to terminate at some point to prevent unfair surprise.
If you have suffered a work injury in Charlotte, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Marta v. Reid, Sept. 22, 2014, Georgia Supreme Court
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North Carolina Industrial Commission Targets Companies Lacking Workers’ Compensation Insurance, Sept. 11, 2014, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog