Thomas McCutcheon

I had a lady with a bad knee injury talk to me about resolving her on the job injury case and leaving her medical bills open for life. I told her that it would certainly be an option for her to have the right to future medical care or receive a one-time lump sum payment in exchange if the case was settled and she wanted to close her medicals.

If the case was tried by the court, the judge would leave her right to future medical care open for treatment relating to the original on the job injury. That sounds like the better option and sometimes it is, but it’s always good to know your options and understand that future medical care is not as clear cut as it sounds.

On September 17, 2021, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decided a case that concerned the issue of whether or not an employer continued to be responsible for medical treatment for an on the job injury if there was a new incident that caused pain.

The facts of the case are that a Mr. Billups was injured on October 18, 2016, had back pain and surgery and eventually settled his case leaving his medical benefits open. On February 12, 2019, Mr. Billups was lifting a lift gate on his delivery truck when he felt a pop and a lot of pain. His employer claimed that this was merely a recurrence of the original injury and not a new injury. His current employer tried to put the blame and the bills on the old employer.

After the court heard the testimony of two surgeons and Mr. Billups (who had never been able to return to full duty following the 2019 injury), the court determined that this was a new injury and that his employer was responsible for the injury.

It’s always important to remember that in worker’s compensation cases no pre-existing condition exists if the employee is able to perform the duties of their job prior to the injury. That is one of the most important aspects of the Alabama Worker’s Compensation Act.

Although it sounds really great that a person would have lifetime medical treatment for an on the job injury and sometimes it is, often the incident that causes new treatment after the case is settled is actually a new injury that terminates the employer’s obligation for future medical treatment. You have to know and understand something about the future treatment you expect before you can make an informed decision about closing your right to that future medical treatment. Sometimes money now is better than a disputed right later.

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