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Maryland court denies workers' compensation for second injury

Being injured on the job is not only painful, but complicated. Being injured twice is even worse, especially when your workers' compensation claim turns into a legal battle. That's precisely what happened to a mechanic working for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which twice appealed his second claim because he wasn't officially on the job, and couldn't make a direct connection between the first injury and the second.

The mechanic filed the first claim after injuring his back and left knee on the job. The claim was accepted, and as part of his rehabilitation he was advised to undergo a work hardening program, which is a more intensive form of physical therapy geared toward a worker's specific tasks.

On one of the last days of the program, which took place at a facility unrelated to his workplace, the mechanic was returning from his lunch break on foot when he was struck by a car in the parking lot. He was knocked to the ground and injured his right knee. He filed another workers' compensation claim, and the Workers' Compensation Commission accepted it, finding that the man's two injuries were related because he wouldn't have been at the rehabilitation facility if not for the first injury.

When his employer, WMATA, requested a judicial review, a circuit court affirmed the commission's decision. WMATA then appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which reversed the lower court's ruling. While it agreed that in general, a second injury should be compensated if it directly results from the first injury, there wasn't a sufficient connection in the mechanic's case. The second injury was not directly caused by the first injury, but by the driver who hit the man. The ruling might have been different if the man's first injury had prevented him from avoiding the car, the court said. But the man's alternative recourse is to seek compensation from the driver who hit him.

Worker's compensation claims aren't always so complicated, but when they are, it's much easier to work through them with an experienced personal injury lawyer. You can better focus on recovering and getting back to your job by relying on legal professionals to do theirs -- getting the compensation you need, regardless of where it comes from.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Injury at work hardening program not directly caused by first injury," July 9, 2012

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