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COA: Man has exhausted compensation benefits

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An Indiana statute is ambiguous as to whether a person who has exhausted his actual worker’s compensation benefits prior to 500 weeks is eligible to receive benefits from the Second Injury Fund starting on the date of the exhaustion of the actual benefits, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

The appellate judges ruled that a man who was entitled to receive 500 weeks of benefits, but only received benefits for 264 weeks, should be allowed to collect from the Second Injury Fund once he exhausted his benefits after the 264th week.

R.M. was injured at his workplace when his arms were pulled into a conveyor belt he was cleaning. He is now permanently disabled and entitled to receive worker’s compensation benefits pursuant to Indiana Code Section 22-3-3-10 for 500 weeks from the date of his injuries. He’s also allowed to recover from the Second Injury Fund after he has received the maximum compensation to which he is entitled under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Full Worker’s Compensation Board originally ruled R.M. wasn’t eligible to receive benefits from the Second Injury Fund, but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed in 2008.

But R.M. only collected for 264 weeks because his employer and employer’s worker’s compensation insurance provider went out of business. Because of this, he argued he should be eligible for money from the Second Injury Fund beginning with the 265th week after the date of his workplace injury. The Full Worker’s Compensation Board determined he would be eligible beginning with the 501st week after the date of his injury.

Judge Cale Bradford wrote in R.M. v. Second Injury Fund, No. 93A02-1007-EX-792, that the judges believe the statute is ambiguous as to this issue. I.C. Section 22-3-3-13(h) provides that a person is eligible for benefits from the Second Injury Fund after exhausting benefits available to him or her under I.C. Section 22-3-3-10. Under -10, R.M. was entitled to receive worker’s compensation benefits for 500 weeks, but because his employer and employer’s worker’s compensation insurance provider went out of business before he met the 500-week threshold, the judges concluded he effectively received the maximum benefits possible and exhausted his right to receive worker’s comp.

“Having concluded that R.M. has effectively exhausted his right to receive worker’s compensation benefits, we believe that the legislature intended that an individual under these specific circumstances shall be considered to have exhausted their right to worker’s compensation benefits, thus making them eligible to recover additional benefits from the Second Injury Fund,” wrote Judge Bradford in reversing the full board. “Any other interpretation would result in the unjust and absurd result of R.M. being left without the assistance of the additional benefits to which he is entitled for a period of 236 weeks.”

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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