What do you do when a claimant moves away from a light duty job and the Employer does not have any light duty work in the geographic area of the claimant’s new residence? At first glance, it feels like that is a voluntary limitation of income, and you could deny Temporary Partial Disability. Well…maybe…maybe not….it depends on the rationale for relocating.
The 1st DCA has addressed the issue in several cases, excerpts of two are below. But the basic idea is “[a]n injured worker is not confined to living in the pre-injury location” and unless there was an “improper motivation” for the move, moving “does not preclude compensation benefits.”
The burden would be on us to show the claimant moved for “improper motivation”, basically to avoid having to work. Some of the caselaw reasons that were considered valid and TPD was owed were to be near family, for financial reasons such as a cheaper area, to live with someone else or for marital problems.
These are a case-by-case basis, and we are always available to discuss your facts. The AMS case also states we do have to provide medical treatment in the claimant’s area once they move, even if it is out of the country. Here are snippets from the caselaw:
From AMS Staffng v. Arreola, 976 So.2d 612 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008)
“The Court stated, “[a]n injured worker is not confined to living in the pre-injury location, and absent an improper motivation a departure therefrom does not preclude compensation benefits.” Id. The court reversed the JCC’s denial of benefits (on the basis that the claimant voluntarily moved) because the claimant’s move to Costa Rica was not shown to have involved any improper motivation. Id.; see also Lykes Bros., Inc. v. Jackson, 461 So.2d 247 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984) (finding that claimant’s move from Florida to North Carolina not motivated by desire to avoid work, and does not show voluntary limitation of income precluding award of wage loss benefits, where claimant’s fiance had experienced life-threatening accident in North Carolina). In this case, the JCC properly found that the claimant’s motive, to be with his family, was not improper. Cf. Hurley v. Stuart Fine Foods, 687 So.2d 310, 311 n. 3 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997) (suggesting move for financial reasons is not an improper motivation where there was no evidence that claimant’s move was motivated by desire to avoid work); Stewart v. CRS Rinker Materials Corp., 855 So.2d 1173 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003) (noting that relocation to Pensacola due to marital problems and desire to be with family was not “improper motivation” which would preclude award of TPD benefits).”
From Lykes Bros. v. Jackson, 461 So.2d 612 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984)
“Although claimant had obtained and accepted another job offer within Florida, her sudden departure from the state was not motivated by any desire to avoid work and does not, in the circumstances, show lack of due diligence or voluntary limitation of income precluding the award of wage loss benefits. Cf., Genelus v. Boran, Craig, Schreck Construction Co., 438 So.2d 964 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983). The deputy was thus entitled to find that claimant’s wage loss is causally related to her industrial injury and not based solely on factors other than physical limitation.”
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Morgan Indek | Managing Partner