Whether an injured worker can collect workers comp weekly payments after being fired depends on the reason for the termination. First, a workers comp insurance carrier is only liable to pay weekly benefits while an injured worker is out of work, or working at reduced earnings. Second, the reason the claimant is out of work or receiving reduced earnings must be due to the work-related disability.
If the Board finds that an injured worker went out of work for a reason other than a disability related to the case, the carrier is not liable to make weekly payments. For example, sometimes an injured worker will go out of work due to an unrelated surgery or accident. Another common scenario involves a worker being laid off or fired by his or her employer.
Each of these situations can create issues in a workers comp case. The insurance carrier will seek to cut costs by arguing that the worker’s wage loss is unrelated. This may result in a trial or the depositions of medical experts.
Covid-19’s Impact on Collecting Workers Comp Benefits
The Covid-19 pandemic provides a great example to explain the concept of unrelated wage loss. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted many industries. Government shutdowns and travel restrictions have hit the restaurant industry particularly hard. Many restaurants have laid off or fired at least part of their staff. Can those fired workers collect workers comp weekly benefits?
Lets say, hypothetically, a restaurant waitress slipped and fell, injuring her leg at work in 2019. She did not lose any time from work due to the accident. The restaurant then let the worker go from her job due to lack of business during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this scenario, the worker went out of work due to economic factors unrelated to her disability from the ankle injury.
Specifically, the waitress’ reduction in her earning capacity was not due to her leg injury. Instead, it was due to unrelated economic factors caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In this situation, the insurance carrier would argue against paying lost wages to the worker during her time out of work. The carrier would argue that the layoff was unrelated to the worker’s disability from the fall. If the Board were to agree with the carrier, the worker would not be able to collect workers comp weekly payments while out of work from the layoff.
It is the job of the workers comp lawyer to investigate any layoff or firing. If the lawyer can prove that the layoff or firing was related to the work-related disability in any way, the claimant may still be able to collect weekly payments while out of work. Contact us if you have any questions.