Indiana Court of Appeals: Unemployment compensation and temporary total disability compensation not mutually exclusive

In Platinum Construction Group, LLC v. Christopher Collingsthe Indiana Court of Appeals determined that an injured employee was not precluded from temporary total disability compensation when he had also sought and received unemployment compensation.

On January 30, 2009, Collings suffered neck, back, and hip injuries when a 20 foot by 14 wall fell on him while he was working as a construction superintendent for Platinum.  The physician selected by Platinum concluded that Collings was temporarily totally disabled, and Collings received temporary total disability (“TTD”) compensation pursuant to Indiana’s Worker’s Compensation Act until March 6, 2009, when he was released to full duty.  In the interim, Platinum had ceased business; consequently, Collings sought and received unemployment compensation.

Collings thereafter attempted to return to construction work but was unable to do so because of ongoing pain from the injury.  In 2012, Collings sought additional TTD compensation, and the Worker’s Compensation Board awarded him an $35,526.  However, the Board credited to Platinum the amount that Collings had received in unemployment compensation.

On appeal, Platinum argued that Collings was ineligible for additional TTD benefits because he had applied for and received unemployment benefits. It noted the apparent contradiction between a TTD compensation claim–in which a claimant asserts an inability to work–and an unemployment compensation claim–in which a claimant asserts that he is able-bodied, available, and making an effort to find work.

The Court of Appeals disagreed:

Simply put, Collings was unable to perform work of the same kind and character due
to the injuries that he suffered while working for Platinum. As a result, he met the statutory
requirements to receive TTD benefits. After Dr. Yergler released him to full duty, he
attempted to perform construction work but was unsuccessful. At the same time, he was
willing, able, and available to work in a capacity that was less physically taxing, as required
by the unemployment compensation statute. Because the Board credited Platinum for the
sums that Collings had received as unemployment benefits, Collings did not receive a
windfall. Thus, his benefits cannot be characterized as duplicative. Under these facts, the
Board did not err in concluding that Collings’s receipt of unemployment benefits did not
preclude him from eligibility for TTD benefits.

By:  Mike Cavosie