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Tennessee Injury Watch: Baker v. St. Paul Says You Cannot Double Dip

The law governing work-related injuries is very complicated and can be confusing. It is challenging to understand what to apply for and with whom. When you are injured and need medical attention, navigating through all of the rules can be disheartening. If you are confused about the benefits you are entitled to, you can very easily make a mistake that can leave you without the help you need. A Knoxville injury attorney can ensure your rights are protected in the wake of an accident.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case where there was confusion about whether an injured worker could collect from both Worker’s Compensation and their employer’s insurance company. In this case it was held that a Massachusetts person could not recover for work related injuries under both Worker’s Compensation and an employer’s uninsured/ under-insured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage. However, the court created an exception for when the employer “explicitly purchased” the UIM coverage with the intention of protecting their employees. Baker v. St. Paul Travelers Ins. Co.

Essentially, the court said that UIM coverage in the case of a work-related injury is dependent on the employer’s intent when purchasing the insurance coverage. If the employer’s reason for purchasing the UIM coverage was to protect their employee in the case of injury during work, then the employee can recover from both Worker’s Compensation and the employers UIM insurance carrier. However, if the employer did not intend for their employees to be covered or even if the employer did not think about coverage for their employees then the employee cannot recover benefits from both their state Worker’s Compensation and their employers UIM insurance carrier. There is only a tiny distinction between instances where you can collect from both and instances where you can not. While this particular court ruling does not apply in Tennessee, it illustrates the complexities involved in seeking justice after a serious or fatal accident.

The decision in Baker arose in 2002 when Heidi Baker, who was employed by Safety Source Northeast (Safety), was severely injured in an automobile accident that caused by a third party while she was doing her job. Baker first applied for and collected Workman’s Compensation benefits. These benefits were not enough to cover her bills so she later applied for benefits under the UIM provision of the commercial automobile insurance policy her employer had with St. Paul Travelers Insurance Company (St. Paul). Unfortunately, Baker was not aware of the benefits she was entitled to and she was left without the recovery she needed to pay for the cost and expenses incurred because of her injury.

MA law says that a person cannot file claims under both Worker’s Compensation and an employer’s UIM insurance coverage except when an employer “explicitly purchased” the UIM coverage to protecting their employees. In this case, the President of Safety testified that was is solely in charge of purchasing commercial automobile insurance for the company, yet he was “unaware” of the UIM coverage under the Safety policy.

Through this testimony the court determined that the employer did not have the intent to protect their employees with this insurance, and therefore Baker was left without this assistance. The insurance company won this case and it was decided that the victim could not receive benefits from both Worker’s Compensation and her employer’s insurance policy.

In cases of work-related injuries the guidance of an experienced and trustworthy attorney is invaluable. Medical costs are high and the cost of a work-related injury can seriously impact your life. The application process and receipt of benefits can be confusing, and it can be difficult to determine what assistance you are entitled to. Especially when driving is a job duty, employees need to be aware of their employer’s insurance coverage and how it applies to them. Additionally, there are even some states, such as MS, that have laws that limit your recovery. If you are ever involved in a job related injury you must know your state Workman’s Compensation law and the rules governing your insurance policy before you enter a claim. When leaving these concerns to a dedicated attorney, you can concentrate on getting better.

If you have been injured contact Tennessee Injury Attorneys at Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. to schedule a free appointment. Call (865) 524-5657.

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