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Injuries of worker hurt in crash after comp evaluation compensable

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An injured worker hurt in a vehicle crash after leaving a medical evaluation for a prior workers compensation claim should receive workers comp benefits in relation to the accident, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled.

Barbara Kelly worked for Lewiston, Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Linen Supply Inc., which was insured for workers comp by the Idaho State Insurance Fund, court records show. She suffered a compensable work injury in September 2013 when a cart rolled over her foot at Blue Ribbon.

The state insurance fund paid workers comp medical and indemnity benefits for Ms. Kelly's foot injury. Court filings show that the insurer also scheduled Ms. Kelly to undergo an independent medical evaluation in November 2013 in relation to her comp claim.

Ms. Kelly traveled 125 miles one way from her workplace in Lewiston to the doctor's office in Post Falls, Idaho, where the state insurance fund scheduled the medical evaluation to be performed, records show. After leaving the appointment to return to work, Ms. Kelly's Ford Expedition collided head-on with a Ford F150 truck that lost traction on a snowy road. Ms. Kelly was found to be not at fault for the accident.

The accident caused severe injuries to Ms. Kelly's lower extremities, and she was restricted by her doctor from placing any weight on the lower half of her body, records show. Ms. Kelly also was placed in a skilled nursing facility after the crash until February 2014.

The Idaho Industrial Commission ruled in September 2014 that Ms. Kelly could not receive workers comp benefits related to injuries she suffered in the crash because the accident did not arise out of and in the course of her employment with Blue Ribbon, records show.

Ms. Kelly appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously Monday that she should receive workers comp benefits related to the vehicle accident.

The court noted that Ms. Kelly was required to attend the medical evaluation if she wanted her workers comp benefits to continue, and that the Idaho state fund was acting on behalf of Blue Ribbon when it scheduled the medical evaluation.

“Kelly's injuries were suffered during the discharge of a duty that was, at the very least, incidental to the nature of her employment and under the direction of her employer, Blue Ribbon,” the ruling reads. “Under Idaho (workers comp law), Kelly was required to attend the (independent medical evaluation) 'if requested by the employer' and (the state insurance fund) was required to reimburse Kelly for her travel expenses and time. If Kelly had failed to attend the (medical evaluation) ... her entitlement to worker's compensation benefits would have been suspended.”

A concurring opinion in the case noted that the doctor who performed Ms. Kelly's medical evaluation was scheduled to operate out of an office near her workplace in December 2013, and that it was unclear why the state insurance fund scheduled Ms. Kelly to travel long distances in wintry weather conditions.

“Had it not been for this thoughtless directive, she would not have been injured in the collision,” the opinion reads.