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Disabled Employee’s RN Wife Entitled to Additional Pay for Nursing Services

An injured worker in an Atlanta workers’ compensation case may be entitled to several types of benefits, including paid medical care. Of course, what exactly that “medical care” may entail varies widely from case to case.

For some employees, especially those with permanently, totally disabling work-related injuries, “medical care” may include in-home care – either by family members, professional nurses, or a combination thereof.

Facts of the Case

In a recent workers’ compensation case, the employee suffered a disabling work-related injury and required medical care in his home as a result. His wife, who had work experience as a registered nurse (RN) but was not licensed in Georgia (her Florida license was inactive/retired status), had cared for the employee in their home for several years. Notably, the wife performed approximately 10 to 11 hours of work per day on the employee’s behalf, two hours of which was in the nature of RN duties, but she was only paid the “non-credentialed family member” rate for all of her daily work.

The employee sought to have his wife paid for her two hours of services per day at the rate of an RN. The administrative law judge held that the wife should be paid at an LPN (rather than RN) rate for the employee’s attendant care for two hours per day, noting that her lack of licensure in Georgia diminished the fair compensation rate contemplated under the Workers’ Compensation Board Guidelines. The judge also awarded partial attorney fees to the employee because the employer/insurer had failed to respond to a prescription for RN care made over a year earlier. The board accepted and adopted the judge’s findings.

Decision of the Court

The board later entered an amended order after realizing that the authorized treating physician had not specified “RN” care, but finding it to be a harmless error, it still agreed that the employer/insurer had been unreasonable in failing to hire an appropriate professional to care for the employee’s needs after the employee’s authorized treating physician prescribed nursing care for him and that the employer/insurer had reasonably contested the compensation rate for the services of the employee’s wife, such that the partial attorney fee awarded by the judge and board was appropriate.

Since workers’ compensation benefits do not fully replace a disabled worker’s earnings, a work injury can have a serious financial impact on a family even when an employee is paid all that he or she is entitled to receive under the law. The decision in this case will help the employee and his wife fill in some of the gap by providing several hundred dollars per month in additional income, albeit for the wife’s services rather than for the husband’s disability.

Speak to an Atlanta Work Injury Attorney

Many unanticipated issues can arise in a work injury case, sometimes years down the road from the initial injury. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to retain the services of a qualified attorney to help protect your legal rights. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case with an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer, call the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, at 678-605-9109 today.