Court of Appeals on change of condition / Dunham matter – Changing Jobs after a Workers’ Comp Injury

Friends and enemies:

On March 16, 2011 the Georgia Court of Appeals came out with a new case on the issue of change in condition. What is change of condition. Basically if an employee goes out of work because of an injury and then changes jobs and has a new injury but was working at a new employer and the duties were lighter than or equal to his old work where he injured himself, then the first employer will be required for starting workers' compensation benefits. In this case a Mr. Dunham was working for a company known as Master Craft Flooring when he injured himself in 2004 and missed six weeks from work. He returned to work at a 20pound lifting restriction but in May 2007 he re-injured himself working for Master Craft and suffered a second work-related injury. Following a hearing in December 2007 the Georgia Administrative Law Judge determined that the injury was a compensable aggravation of the preexisting November 2004 injury and ordered Master Craft/Companion to provide medical treatment until the aggravation resolved. It appears as though this was a new specific injury as opposed to a fictional new injury. In any event this gentleman sought a resumption of temporary total disability benefits from June 2008 forward having resigned from Master Craft and starting work for a new company.

Or under Georgia law an employee must perform a diligent work search to attempt to prove that his injured condition prevents him from finding a new job. In this situation, Master Craft and their insurance company Companion hired a private investigator who performed video surveillance and found Mr. Dunham working without any apparent problems. The Administrative Law Judge ordered benefits for a specific period of time (January 2008 through March 2009 which was the date of the first surveillance. However when this matter was appealed to the Full Board of the State Board of Workers' Compensation the Board substituted its own opinion and relied heavily on the surveillance video indicating that there was really no aggravation. I guess the moral of this story is that if you're hurt really be hurt and don't try to fake it. Always remember that the insurance companies will hire private investigators to see what you're doing. Try not to cheat the system. See Master Craft Flooring v. Dunham, ______ Ga. App. ______, Case No. A10A1814 decided March 16, 2011. Signing off for now. Victor Alexander.

Need Help? We're Here For You.

Send us a message or call us now at 404.815.1776!