The West Virginia Supreme Court recently affirmed a Worker’s Compensation Board of Review decision that held that Dexter L. Gore, a superintendent with the Boone County Parks and Recreation Commission, was not eligible for more worker’s compensation benefits. Gore had previously suffered personal injuries while working.
The unanimous Supreme Court opinion indicated that a worker’s compensation beneficiary in general, and Gore in particular, is only eligible for the 13% whole person impairment coverage, per the set impairment ranges, regardless of the 18% impairment coverage found by a physician using range-of-motion modes.
Gore had brought a lawsuit claiming that he was entitled to increased benefits after injuring his lower back when picking up a cinder block back in 1999. Gore was deemed eligible for worker’s compensation benefits by the state bureau of employment programs and went to see a doctor on regular visits.
Gore underwent back surgery at the Charleston Area Medical Center. He returned to his job six months after being injured. In 2009, Gore was deemed to be at “maximum medical improvement” and was evaluated for impairment.
Gore’s doctor, using the American Medical Association Guidelines and range-of-motion medical table guidelines, determined that Gore was at 18% whole person impairment due to his personal injuries. It was also determined that he had a range of 10-13% whole person impairment, using the lumbar category under West Virginia’s worker’s compensation statute.
At a hearing before the state Worker’s Compensation Board of Review, Gore was awarded the lower 13% impairment coverage. Gore argued that the statute used to determine that impairment was unlawful because it was based on preconceived ranges of impairment and not on a claimant’s individual medical impairment.
The Supreme Court affirmed the Board’s decision, saying that the guidelines were reasonable and standardized, and that the decision to award the lower coverage was within with the discretion of the examining doctor and the worker’s compensation board.
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