Disability: Defined

Tinker v. Montana State Fund [06/24/09] 2009 MT 218 A determination of whether a worker is “disabled” would of necessity be measured by reference to whether he or she suffered a wage loss.
Tinker v. Montana State Fund [06/24/09] 2009 MT 218 The 2005 Workers’ Compensation Act does not contain a stand-alone definition of disability, but based on the Act’s plain language, it is apparent that a “disability” is defined with reference to a worker’s diminished capacity to work and earn wages. Until a claimant knows that he or she is suffering some form of wage loss as a result of an injury, condition, or impairment, then he or she lacks knowledge of their “disability” within the meaning of the Act.
Tinker v. Montana State Fund [07/07/08] 2008 MTWCC 33 The WCA no longer has a general definition of “disability” for reasons that are unclear from the legislative history. However, the legislature clearly made a concerted effort to revise all the statutes which references some sort of “disability” so that they require a wage loss or inability to perform one’s time-of-injury job as an element of each definition. In the present case, where Petitioner had a commonplace slip and fall accident and missed no work, and assumed that the residual aches and pains would heal over time, and where he subsequently sought medical treatment only when his pain reached a level where he had difficulty performing his job duties, Petitioner lacked knowledge of his disability until he sought treatment because of his inability to perform his job duties.

Tinker v. Montana State Fund [07/07/08] 2008 MTWCC 33 Under § 39-71-601(2)(a), MCA, the time requirement for claims filing may be waived for up to 24 months if the claimant has a “lack of knowledge of disability.” In previous cases, the Montana Supreme Court looked to definitions of “disability” found throughout the WCA to determine how to define the term in this context. The court concluded that all of the definitions contained language to the effect that the injury caused a loss of wages or loss of earning capacity. Therefore, a claimant who knows of an injury may nonetheless have no “knowledge of disability” until it affects the worker’s ability to earn a wage.