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Appeals court: Worker entitled to pursue compensation after settlement

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A worker injured in a traffic accident who received a settlement for a workers’ compensation claim in Wisconsin may proceed with a claim in Indiana, where the crash occurred, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The appellate court reversed and remanded a ruling by the Worker’s Compensation Board of Indiana, which dismissed an application for adjustment of claim from Dale Brenon, a Wisconsin resident hired by Omega Insurance Services as an investigator.

After a 2003 crash in Lakeville, Ind., Omega through its insurers negotiated a $100,000 settlement with Brenon. Before the settlement was accepted, Brenon filed an application in Indiana seeking workers’ compensation benefit.   

“Contrary to the Board’s conclusion, the issue cannot be disposed of simply because Brenon’s receipt of worker’s compensation benefits was the result of negotiated settlement agreements rather than a unilateral, voluntary payment by Omega and Zenith Insurance Company/Zurich American Insurance Company,” Judge Ezra Freidlander wrote in a unanimous opinion.

“The statutes and judicial opinions of the state of the first award must be examined to determine if they expressly disallow a later award in a different state. Here, the parties have not provided us with any analysis of judicial opinions or statutes in Wisconsin regarding whether such preclude an additional award in another state. Our research has likewise revealed no judicial opinions or statutes in Wisconsin (or Indiana for that matter) that prohibit claims in multiple states,” Friedlander wrote.

The judges remanded the matter to the Worker’s Compensation Board, holding that the board’s dismissal was “not sustainable under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, Wisconsin laws or Supreme Court precedent, and that the Board’s decision gave no effect to the reservation of rights clauses contained in settlement agreements.”

 

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