Few issues get argued at hearings quite as much as credit for an overpayment of temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. The case law and the statute give each side some ammunition, with no clear answer ever accepted as the new rule. The recent Full Commission case of Campbell v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated give employers/carriers new missiles to bring to the table.
Mr. Campbell reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) on January 5, 2017 by stipulation of the parties. The Commission found that the Claimant was entitled to a wage loss award, which means that he is entitled to 340 weeks of benefits based on 2/3 of the difference between his weekly wages prior to his accident and what he was able to earn after he reached MMI.
Well, on January 5, 2017, the Claimant was still receiving TTD in the amount of $571.37 per week. However, the wage loss award entitled him to only $205.47 over 340 weeks. The Carrier continued to pay to the Claimant TTD (as required by statute) after the date of MMI, until they received an Order that they could stop his payments. The problem was that once a claimant reaches MMI, under the statute, he is no longer entitled to temporary benefits. By stipulation of the parties, as of January 5, 2017, Mr. Campbell was at MMI and should only be entitled to permanent benefits (his $205.47 a week award). On the other hand, the Carrier isn’t permitted to stop TTD in this instance without an Order or an agreement from the claimant.
Based on the general rule that TTD cannot be stopped unilaterally after 150 days, employers/carriers always request a credit on the permanency award for any temporary benefits paid after the date of MMI. Sometimes that credit is granted, and sometimes it is not. This case gives employers/carriers at least an indication that right now the Commission seems to be granting this request for a credit.
Confused? Courtney Gruber wrote a blog on this issue a while back that might help. Check that out here. If you’d like to see a blog entry in our Fundamentals Series on TTD and MMI issues, let us know here.