Benefits: Rehabilitation Benefits: Proof of Wage Loss

Markovich v. Liberty Northwest [06/14/07] 2007 MTWCC 21 Where job analyses clearly demonstrate that Petitioner is qualified to earn more than he was earning in his time-of-injury employment, even though Petitioner is actually earning less due to his taking a job in a lower-paying field, Petitioner has not suffered a “wage loss” as defined by § 39-71-116(1), MCA.
Huffman v. Twin City Fire Ins. Co. [11/16/98] 1998 MTWCC 83 A 48-year old driver in the movie and television industry hurt his shoulder while working on the production of Lonesome Dove in Montana. Although he worked immediately after his injury at a minimal wage loss, the appropriate period to assess wages is the full year post-injury, given evidence that claimant's first post-injury job was not representative of his post-injury wages. See, section 39-71-123(3), MCA (1993). On a long term basis – one year and more – claimant has suffered a wage loss exceeding $2.00 an hour because of his injury. Where he has proven a wage loss and suggested the possibility of retraining in other aspects of entertainment industry work, claimant may be entitled to rehabilitation benefits, but the insurer has not developed a rehabilitation plan and claimant has not provided details regarding a plan, most importantly, whether his suggestion is reasonable given his education and experience and likelihood of finding new work that would minimize his wage loss. Therefore, the matter is referred back to a rehabilitation provider for evaluation and development of a plan.

Caplette v. Reliance National Indemnity Co. [10/1/98] 1998 MTWCC 69 Under section 39-71-1011(2), MCA (1995), claimant is entitled to further rehabilitation benefits only if he proves an actual wage loss as the result of the injury. Claimant has not proved wage loss as the result of his injury where he earned a slightly lower wage post-injury because he chose to take a lower-paying job because it was scheduled to last longer and was closer to home. Moreover, his higher paying pre-injury job (a Davis-Bacon construction job) was only a short term job and he has not proven the injury caused him to lose the opportunity to work on such jobs. Although claimant now has a medium-duty restriction, he has not proved an actual loss of ability to find work as a heavy equipment operator at the same wage rate as the result of that restriction.

Gates v. Liberty NW Ins. Co. [12/29/95] 1995 MTWCC 114 Where a worker does not immediately return to work, the rehabilitation requirement of section 39-71-2001, MCA (1993), must be met before any determination is made regarding claimant’s post-injury wages.
Gates v. Liberty NW Ins. Co. [12/29/95] 1995 MTWCC 114 If a rehabilitation plan calls for immediate return to work, the time for measuring wage loss is at the time when the eight weeks of rehabilitation benefits specified in section 39-71-2001(3), MCA (1993), are exhausted. If at that time the claimant has been unable to secure employment despite his best good faith efforts, his post-injury wage is zero and his entitlement to permanent partial disability benefits shall be computed accordingly. If a plan calls for retraining, then a reasonable time must be allowed for claimant to find work upon completion of the plan, at a minimum eight weeks, before wage loss is assessed.