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Workers' Compensation Case Spotlight

The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board provides guidance and leadership through the case opinions and decisions it sets forth. Because these decisions can dramatically affect the lives of injured workers and their families, we bring you updates on current case law that we find particularly impactful.

Ruling Favors Injured Worker--Entitled to Two Vouchers for Educational Retraining and Skill Enhancement

By David Goldstein, Esq. and Alvaro Lizarraga, Esq.

In this monthly case update we discuss whether an injured worker, who suffers two separate injuries—one specific, and one cumulative—is entitled to one or two supplemental job displacement vouchers (SJDV) under Labor Code 4658.5.

Labor Code Section 4658.5 determines eligibility for an SJDV to be used for educational retraining or skill enhancement if three conditions are met:

  1. The injury caused permanent disability;
  2. The employer does not make a timely offer of modified or alternative work,  and
  3. The employee does not return to work within 60 days after termination of temporary disability.

For injuries before January 1, 2013, the value of the voucher was determined by a sliding scale depending on the level of the permanent disability award.

Educational Retraining

In Silva v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company/LSG Sky Chefs, the injured worker claimed an injury on April 16, 2010 to his left shoulder, neck and psyche.  He also alleged a cumulative trauma from April 26, 2009 to April 26, 2010 to the same body parts plus the left wrist, all while working for the same employer.  There were concurrent periods of temporary disability.

The Workers’ Compensation Trial Judge awarded the injured worker 25 percent permanent disability in the specific injury case, with a $6,000 SJDV, and 30 percent permanent disability on the cumulative injury case with an $8,000 SJDV.

The defendant filed a Petition for Reconsideration against this finding, claiming that the Judge had incorrectly awarded two separate vouchers and therefore created an improper double recovery.

The Board Panel in its decision on the defendant’s Petition for Reconsideration agreed with the Trial Judge stating, “The language and provision of Section 4658.5 detailing an injured worker’s potential entitlement to supplemental job displacement benefits are clear and unambiguous.  The benefit is triggered by each injury judged on its own separate merits.  The Panel held that the Trial Judge found two distinct injuries with separate injury dates, with a cumulative injury also involving a new body part, the left wrist.  The Panel rejected the defendant’s claim of improper double recovery and found that the injured worker was entitled to two separate supplemental job displacement vouchers.

As advocates for injured workers, we at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP are keeping a close eye on cases involving the supplemental job displacement voucher and the evidence required to successfully pursue these types of cases.  We will continue to update you regarding this issue and any other changes in the Workers’ Compensation system.  If you would like to speak to an attorney about your legal options, please call 213-739-7000 or click here.

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