State ex rel. Hildebrand v. Wingate Transport, Inc. – Use Caution in Quitting Your Job After Work Injury

In the wake of a work injury, there may be some circumstances in which an employee is mulling quitting his or her job. Maybe he or she has no choice.
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Ideally, if the case is pending, it’s generally best to hold onto the job at long as possible. While your medical benefits should remain unchanged regardless of your job status, your temporary total disability benefits could be affected. That’s because temporary total disability benefits cover a percentage of your lost wages when your injury keeps you from carrying out your previous job duties.

So for example, if there are job restrictions your doctor places on you while you are healing, you can recover the difference through TTD.

But these benefits could be compromised if you quit, particularly if you do so after your employer has found alternative work for you that fits within your restrictions. The courts view voluntary abandonment of the workforce as a forfeit of benefits.

All this said, it may still be beneficial to quit, particularly if the stress of staying is impacting your health. However, our Greensboro work injury lawyers recommend always consulting with an attorney first. That way, you can make an educated decision about how such a move will impact your benefits.

The recent case of State ex rel. Hildebrand v. Wingate Transport, Inc., before the Ohio Supreme Court, reveals how quitting a job shortly after a work injury can affect your claim to benefits.

Here, it was undisputed employee suffered a work-related injury, and was eligible to receive TTD benefits. He injured his back while working as a mechanic, and reported the injury immediately to his supervisor.

A few days later, he was diagnosed with a sprain/strain, and received a note from his doctor restricting him to modified work duty. He returned to work with a note from his doctor regarding his restricted duty, and the owner called to confirm the worker could return for light-work duty. During that conversation, owner asked worker to return a Jeep key he’d loaned him after worker totaled his own car in a crash six months earlier.

Worker then got agitated and asked if he was being fired. Owner stated worker was not fired, but it was time for him to return the Jeep. Worker became upset and began loading up company items into a truck. Another employee asked him to stop, but worker refused and left the scene. Police were called. Eventually, worker returned and brought back the items.

He later filed for unemployment benefits, but was denied after officials determined he had left his job without cause.

He then filed a report for workers’ compensation benefits, to which his employer objected because worker had a history of low-back problems. A hearing officer allowed medical coverage, but denied worker’s request for TTD, finding he had voluntarily quit and not re-entered the workforce. Employer had been willing and ready to offer light-duty employment that would meet worker’s physical capabilities, but worker refused that opportunity.

Worker appealed the commission’s findings all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ultimately affirmed. Other cases in which TTD were approved for workers no longer on the job involved situations in which workers had been unable to return to former positions and were not given modified duty or where they had been fired.

When a worker voluntarily quits for reasons unrelated to the claim, TTD may not be obtainable.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
State ex rel. Hildebrand v. Wingate Transport, Inc., Jan. 22, 2015, Ohio Suprem Court

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A Look Ahead to Changing OSHA Regulations in 2015, Jan. 7, 2015, Greensboro Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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