Workers CompensationDecision to Award Injured Texas Worker Lifetime Benefits Dependent on “Imbecility”

traumatic brain injuryIn 2008, a Texas worker who suffered a traumatic brain injury is eligible for a lifetime of workers’ compensation benefits. While his severe brain injury should be enough to receive these benefits in and of itself, the Texas appellate court considered his eligibility based on the crudest factor: the level of “imbecility” the man has sustained.

According to the report, a brick mason for a company based in Houston fell 10 feet from a scaffold onto concrete. He suffered from severe injuries, which includes an injured spinal cord, fractured ribs and multiple skull fractures. The worker remained in a coma for 36 days. A year later, the injured brick mason was moved to a neurological rehabilitation center where his doctor determined his balance, thinking, abilities to organize and memory had been severely affected by his traumatic brain injury. Worse still, the doctor determined in his diagnosis that the injured worker was “permanently mentally incapacitated.”

Further tests revealed the worker has the mental functions of an 11 or 12-yearo-old. The worker will require consistent care for the rest of his life, and it is likely his condition will never improve.

Texas Court Ruled an Injured Worker’s Imbecility Level was Not Sufficient to Receive Benefits

The worker’s family filed for workers’ compensation benefits. While it normally can be difficult to obtain a lifetime of workers’ comp benefits in Texas, workers are eligible if they sustain a traumatic brain injury that results in incurable insanity or “imbecility.” The term “imbecility” is explained in a prior Texas workers’ comp case as having the mental functioning of a 3-year-old to a 7-year-old. As a result, the county court denied the worker because his mental age was just a little too old, disregarding the devastating physical and emotional challenges he and his family will face.

Luckily, the decision was completely reversed in a unanimous vote by the Texas 1st District Court of Appeal. The court found the lower district court stuck too close to the definition of imbecility.

Texas Workers’ Comp Rulings Reflect Outdated Statutes

According to the ruling, the dictionary containing the narrow definition the lower county court decided on was created 70 years ago and was not an appropriate source for this case. Moreover, the ruling said the workers’ compensation statute should be liberally interpreted when it comes to proving the lower mental age of a worker who has been injured. Finally, the ruling said that applying the 70-year-old definition would ultimately produce “absurd results,” so clearly does not apply.

Way to go, Texas District Court of Appeals. We tip our modern-day hats to you. However, it seems the state of Texas still has some catching up to do in regards to its outdated statutes that could potentially determine whether it helps victims of workplace injury or makes their situation even more unbearable.

Aaron Allison is a personal injury lawyer who represents victims who sustain on-the-job injuries in Austin, Texas.

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