Workers Compensation And The Return-To-Work Provision
Last Friday, I spoke at a workers’ compensation seminar in Birmingham. Let me start by saying thank you to Birmingham attorney David Nomberg (Nomberg Law Firm) for organizing the event and asking if I would speak. I enjoyed teaching about return-to-work issues in Alabama law. I also enjoyed learning on different topics from the other speakers David scheduled. When I attend these seminars, I always leave with some great insights that help me better prepare and try my Alabama workers’ compensation cases.
What are return-to-work issues in Alabama’s comp law? Alabama workers’ compensation law has a special provision, often referred to as the Return-To-Work section. The Alabama Supreme Court and Court of Civil Appeals have only addressed this section directly in about 3 to 4 cases. And, two of those are mine. The first involved a workers’ compensation case I tried a number of years ago in Athens. My client suffered a really bad lower back injury while working at the local Steelcase plant that left him severely restricted. He tried unsuccessfully to keep working. The second involved a more recent case I tried in Guntersville. In the Guntersville case, my client suffered two accidents, underwent a spinal surgery, and returned to work unsuccessfully despite significant efforts to accommodate his restrictions. My client worked for the City of Guntersville, itself. Both of these guys were hard workers who did everything possible to keep working. Both suffered such severe injuries that they just could not continue. In both cases, we won full benefits for our clients at trial and through appeal. So, these are compensation issues I’ve debated for clients through the Alabama court system.
I have not written much on this blog about the Return-To-Work provision of our workers’ compensation laws. There is a reason for that. This section is a major provision that impacts many injured workers. But, it’s also a long section with some complicated issues. So, it’s an area that’s really difficult to discuss in a short blog post. Since I just returned from teaching on the topic, I thought I would try to touch on a few issues in this area of Alabama law.