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Workers' compensation and part-time wage replacement

The complexity of workers' compensation law and its interpretation is demonstrated by a recent case from South Dakota. In that case, the worker in question was injured on one of her part-time jobs. Like many individuals in today's workplace, she had to find employment at more than one employer, likely due to the low wages paid and the unavailability of full-time employment.

She suffered a work-related injury on the job and qualified for workers' compensation insurance benefits for that injury. But the injury made it impossible for her to work at her other two part-time jobs, and her attorney argued that she should receive compensation for those additional jobs.

This makes sense from the standpoint of the purpose of the wage replacement portion of the workers' compensation benefit. If you cannot work, it would seem reasonable to expect that your benefit would cover all of your existing income if you were temporarily disabled from working at any job.

The South Dakota Supreme Court found the law as written was ambiguous and ruled she was entitled to aggregate her income from all of the work she was unable to perform. The legislature is now looking at modifying that ruling and limiting when wage aggregation will be allowed.

In Wisconsin, part-time workers do not have that option, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court has interpreted this state's law to restrict workers' compensation benefits to only the income lost from the job where the worker suffered the injury.

Because of the complexity of the statutes and regulations, it is possible that errors or gaps exist in the law and your specific facts may require the filing of a case to clarify the law.

Source: insurancejournal.com, "Bill Would Clarify South Dakota’s Workers’ Comp Law," Dirk Lammers, January 28, 2016

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