Utah Court Says Wages can be Considered in Disability Determination

July 27, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Utah Supreme Court has rejected an employer's argument that the state's Labor Commission cannot consider an injured worker's previous earnings in a permanent and total disability finding.

According to Business Insurance, the high court’s ruling upholds findings by an administrative law judge and an appellate court in the case against LPI Services and Travelers Indemnity Co.   Business Insurance said that after a building engineer suffered a lower back injury in 2001, an administrative law judge found the worker to be permanently and totally disabled, in part because “there was no other work reasonably available because the only available employment paid less than the state’s average weekly wage.”

LPI and Travelers argued on appeal that Utah code allows a determination of whether other work is reasonably available by considering only an employee’s age, education, past work experience, medical capacity, and residual functional capacity, but the lower courts found that “past work experience” includes consideration of wages a now-disabled worker earned previously when determining whether work is reasonably available.