According to a ruling by a state Supreme Court, an employer is not allowed to get credited for the full amount of a lump sum workers’ compensation settlement that it already paid in a case that was later re-opened after the employee’s occupational disability worsened. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the employer Gardens Glen Farm did not have a right to receive dollar-for-dollar credit for payments made previously to the claimant.
The employee, Bethany Balderas, was seriously injured while working as an exercise trainer for Gardens Glen in 2006. The horse she was riding fell and rolled over her, causing her to fracture two vertebrae. She underwent fusion surgery before going back to work. For her harm suffered, Balderas negotiated a $100K lump sum payment based in part on a 29% disability impairment rating.
However, according to court filings, she petitioned to have her workers’ compensation claim re-opened because her occupational disability had worsened. An administrative law judge ruled two years later that Balderas had demonstrated that with a decreased range of spinal motion and other impairment issues, her impairment had increased by 30%. She also was no longer able to work as an exercise trainer.
The judge awarded her 425 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits at a rate of $275/week. That amount was determined in part by Balderas’s eligbility of $456.25 in benefits a week, with $180.42/week credited to offset her claim when she had settled earlier with Gardens Glen.