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Worker not entitled to supplemental benefits for eye injury

workers compensation

A man who lost sight in one eye in a workplace accident failed to show that he should be entitled to supplemental earnings benefits, an appellate court held Thursday.

In Evans v. Winn Lumber Co. LLC, the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Third Circuit in Lake Charles affirmed a workers compensation judge’s ruling that the worker failed to show his vision loss will affect his wage-earning capacity.

Charles Evans worked as a forklift driver for Winn Lumber Co. While he was performing work duties on Dec. 19, 2017, he was struck in the left eye by a stacking stick that had become entangled in a conveyer belt, which rendered him functionally blind in that eye.

He filed a claim for workers compensation benefits and received $48,000 for 100 weeks of disability benefits and an additional $937 in bonuses that were left off the initial check. Mr. Evans also asked for supplemental earning benefits. The workers comp judge denied his claim, and also denied his claims for penalties and attorney fees for the underpayment of benefits.

Mr. Evans appealed, arguing that he should be awarded the supplemental benefits. In Louisiana, an injured worker has the burden of proving that the workplace injury resulted in an inability to early 90% or more of the average pre-injury wage.

The appellate court disagreed, holding that although Mr. Evans was functionally blind in his left eye from the accident, he failed to show that this affected his ability to earn a living. The court noted that Mr. Evans was able to continue to work as a forklift driver despite his limited vision for two months until he was terminated for sleeping on the job. As a result, the court held that the fact that his job is no longer available “solely due to his own actions terminates his entitlement to SEBs.”

The appellate court did, however, hold that the workers compensation judge erred in failing to award him penalties and attorney fees for the undisputed underpayment of disability benefits, and awarded him $2,000 in penalties and $1,000 in attorney fees.





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