The pre-existing obesity and smoking habits of an Indiana pizzeria employee injured at work didn’t prevent the worker’s ability to receive temporary total disability benefits when the employer failed to produce evidence showing the weight problem or other issues impaired his health or required medical intervention prior to the workplace injury. This was supported by a 2009 ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals that highlighted a common tactic by employers and workers’ compensation insurers following a workplace accident resulting in injury or illness. It involves turning it all around on the worker, making it seem as if his or her own “poor choices” or habits were in fact the catalyst for the worker’s health problems. It’s an approach designed to eliminate or minimize the insurer’s liability for the worker’s injury – even when there is no question a work accident happened and resulted in injuries.
Injuries are common among restaurant cooks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are approximately 26,500 restaurant cooks in Indiana, with injuries regularly reported, including:
- Slips, trips, and falls;
- Exposure to chemicals;
- Assault (due to basic lack of security);
- Ergonomic hazards.
But that list isn’t exhaustive. In this Indiana workers’ compensation case, the claimant was employed as a cook at the defendant restaurant when he was accidentally struck in the back by a freezer door. As a result of this incident, he suffered a lower back injury. The injury was immediately reported, and the cook was sent for medical treatment. At the time of this incident, the 25-year-old plaintiff was six feet tall, weighed about 340 pounds, and smoked roughly 30 cigarettes daily. Continue reading