Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Sugg – Permanent Total Disability Benefits

In the event of an injury that is so severe, it results in lifelong impairment, South Carolina law provides for total and permanent disability benefits. The maximum benefit payment is equal to 500 weeks (or 9.5 years), with the value of any previous payments for temporary total benefits deducted from the sum. In cases where individuals are left paraplegic, quadriplegic or suffer physical brain damage will receive weekly compensation for life. cane

Claims for permanent total disability are not granted without thorough vetting. Unfortunately, employers and insurers will often battle legitimate claims for permanent total disability because they know the payout in these cases will be substantial. Anything they can do to reduce the payments or eliminate them altogether is in the best interest of employers/insurers.

That’s why it’s imperative to have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer fighting for your rights from the start.

In the recent case of Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Sugg, the Oklahoma Supreme Court weighed a claim for permanent total disability benefits by a woman who had suffered multiple on-the-job injuries.

Oklahoma, unlike South Carolina, operates a state agency known as the Multiple Injury Trust Fund, which protects employers from liability for the combination of old and new disabilities. Here in South Carolina, employers are liable for aggravation of pre-existing injuries if the subsequent injury was work-related.

In Sugg, claimant suffered a compensable work-related injury to her neck and to her left knee in 1989. Court records do not indicate the kind of work she was doing at the time. As a result of that injury, she was ultimately assigned a 10 percent disability rating to the body as a whole.

Then in 2008, claimant suffered a second on-the-job injury, this time to her right knee. The order that awarded her benefits took note of her pre-existing disability. The court indicated that at the time of the accident, claimant had a pre-existing partial disability of 35 percent to her left knee, 15 percent to psychological overlay, 20 percent to her neck (she had surgery in 1993) and 30 percent to her right leg. The court declined to award permanent partial disability benefits over these amounts.

Claimant in 2013 filed a claim with the Multiple Injury Trust Fund, citing the 1989 injury and the 2008 injury. She alleged the combination of these injuries, combined with her lack of education and workforce skill rendered her permanently and totally disabled.

Trial court denied her claim. On appeal, a panel of three judges reversed. The Fund appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Fund then appealed to the state supreme court.

The state supreme court found that evidenced indicated that after the most recent injury to plaintiff’s right knee, there was a synergistic effect of her injuries. The impairments combined with subsequent surgical procedures to her spine and knees, combined with her age and educational background, economic status and employment history – as well as the fact that her job duties were changed to involve a more strenuous type of physical work that involved long periods of standing – resulted in a situation in which claimant can’t perform any gainful employment now or in the future. That means claimant, for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits, is permanently and totally disabled, and thus entitled to benefits from the state fund.

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

Additional Resources:

Multiple Injury Trust Fund v. Sugg, Nov. 17, 2915, Oklahoma Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Kingery v. Sumitomo Elec. Wiring: Workers’ Compensation Appeals, Nov. 7, 2015, Rock Hill Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog

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