Missouri: Auto Accident Renders Traveling Nurse Totally Disabled

Missouri: Auto Accident Renders Traveling Nurse Totally Disabled

In a case with more than a ½ million in unpaid benefits, the issue boiled down to a simple dispute of where  the injured worker was going in her car. 

Claimant contends she was going back to the office to send an urgent fax about a hospice patient when she was struck by a car in Seymour, Missouri in June 2010.  Claimant sustained multiple orthopedic injuries and she developed a seizure disorder after she recovered from a coma.   An office manager indicated she did not expect claimant to return to the office and stated this action would be “highly unusual.” Poole v Preferred Hospice of Missouri SW, 2014 Mo WCLR Lexis 27 (lexis.com) (Feb. 26, 2014) 2014 Mo WCLR Lexis 27 (Lexis Advance) (Feb. 26, 2014).   

The Commission affirmed findings of the ALJ that claimant’s accident arose out of her employment and that her duties that involved 80% on the road involved a risk of driving different from her non-occupational life, even though the location of the accident shared the same route either going home or back to her office. “The administrative law judge determined that employee testified credibly that she was returning to employer's place of business at the time of the motor vehicle accident on June 7, 2010. The administrative law judge had the opportunity to observe the witnesses and we discern no compelling reason on this record to disturb her credibility determination.”  The commission noted that claimant’s testimony was not corroborated by her daily service log. 

A neuropsychologist concluded claimant sustained a cognitive disorder, depression and adjustment disorder. Claimant now contends she has memory loss, she uses a cane, and she has a somewhat poorly controlled seizure disorder.  A vocational expert concluded amazingly that claimant had no transferrable job skills although was working at the time as an admissions coordinator for the employer and had 26 years of experience as a registered nurse.  The ALJ found claimant and her husband testified credibly.

The employer offered no evidence to contest either the medical or vocational opinions.  An FMLA statement offered by the employer was excluded.  The Commission awarded permanent total disability and open medical for the 57-year old employee in addition  to more than $514,000 in past medical and TTD benefits against the employer.   

Source: Martin Klug, Huck, Howe & Tobin. Read Martin Klug’s Mo. Workers’ Comp Alerts.

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