Indiana Worker’s Compensation Law: Recent Developments With Temporary Total Disability Benefits

Under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act, temporary total disability is paid for the time period an employee is completely unable to perform regular work because of an injury. Temporary total disability is paid at the rate of two-thirds of the employee’s pre-injury average weekly wage, subject to a maximum period of 500 weeks. See Indiana Code § 22-3-3-8 and Indiana Code § 22-3-3-22.

When an accepted injury renders an employee unable to work, compensation for lost wages is paid starting on the eighth day. However if the employee is still disabled, on the twenty-second day after the injury, the employee will receive compensation for the first seven days. See Indiana Code § 22-3-3-7(a).

The first weekly installment of compensation is due fourteen days after the disability begins. Not later than fifteen days from the date that the first installment is due, the employer/carrier must tender to the employee an Agreement to Compensation, along with compensation due, or request an extension of time. See Indiana Code § 22-3-3-7(b).

If, however, the employer/carrier denies liability, a written notice of denial must be mailed within thirty days after the employer’s knowledge of the alleged injury. Indiana Code § 22-3-3-7(b)

Typically, when an employee was terminated for reasons unrelated to the work-related injury, the employer would use the termination of employment to justify not paying the employee ongoing temporary total disability benefits.

However, the Indiana Court of Appeals in 2017 in the case 72 NE 3d 986 addressed a situation where an employee whose employment was terminated for misconduct was still entitled to the payment of temporary total disability benefits.

In the case 72 NE 3d 986, the employee was employed as a production associate for in June 2014 when he slipped and injured his lower back. The employee notified his supervisor of the injury but did not seek treatment until his pain worsened more than two weeks after the injury. The employer sent the employee to its doctor who returned the injured worker to full duty, a determination that the injured worker disagreed with.

Nonetheless, the injured worker attempted to return to work, but was unable to get out of bed the day following his first full shift. When he returned to work, he got into a verbal altercation with his supervisor regarding his back pain and lack of work restrictions and threw an ice pack, which nearly struck another employee. The employer suspended the injured worker and then terminated his employment and refused to pay the injured worker temporary total disability benefits while he was undergoing medical treatment.

The Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board determined that the injured worker was unable to perform work of the same kind he was performing when injured and that he was owed temporary total disability benefits.

On appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals, the employer argued that the injured worker was not entitled to temporary total disability benefits because he was terminated for misconduct. The company pointed to the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act, which says termination of temporary total disability benefits is allowed when the injured worker is unable or unavailable to work for reasons unrelated to the work injury.

The Indiana Court of Appeals noted that the relevant inquiry is whether the injured worker’s inability to work, even for other employers, was related to his injury. The Indiana Court of Appeals also noted that the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board found that the injured worker’s inability to work was related to his injury. The Indiana Court of Appeals noted that the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board’s decision rested on a determination of the injured worker’s credibility and weighing of the evidence.

As a result, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that the injured worker’s termination for misconduct did not prevent him from receiving temporary total disability benefits as a result of the work-related injury.