Arizona Court Rules: Spouse Not Covered by Workman's Compensation

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In a landmark case, Arizona courts made a ruling that was the first of its kind in the state, reported The Arizona Daily Star. This month, the appellate court ruled that insurance companies do not have to reimburse a spouse for the special care he or she is providing in terms of workers' compensation.

Sabino Carbajal, a Bagdad, AZ resident, argued that his wife should be paid for the attendant care she provided him when a nurse is not at the house. Carbajal's wife, Celia, had to quit her job in order to help him to do daily tasks that he cannot do himself.

According to court documents, Carbajal, employed by Phelps Dodge, is paralyzed on the right half of his body because of head and spine injuries he suffered in 1999. He also has cognitive problems but is able to inform people of his needs.

A doctor testified that Carbajal need round-the-clock supervision because of his injuries, which have left him unable to dress or clean himself and needing help using the restroom. The company's insurance has been covering a paid attendant to be at Carbajal's house for eight to 10 hours a day; however, the care Carbajal requires is beyond what the attendant provides. Carbajal's wife quit her job in order to be a caregiver the other 14 to 16 hours in the day.

What the Judges say about Workers' Compensation

Judge Patricia Orozco wrote in the majority opinion that the court understands the Workers' Compensation Act, and the obligation of the courts to interpret the law. The Arizona Daily Star reported that Orozco wrote that it is the court's job to use the Act to make sure that insurance companies bear the burden of injury but not necessarily with a "generous interpretation."

However, Judge Donn Kessler felt that the other judges were missing the point: Celia had to quit her full-time job in order to care for her husband. If Carbajal had not been married, the insurance company would have to cover an around-the-clock paid attendant. Kessler also pointed out that Celia was paid by the insurance company to be trained on how to take care of her husband when the paid attendant is not present.

"Taken to its logical conclusion, the holding today will permit workers' compensation carriers to deny paid attendant care to claimants on the theory that such paid care is not necessary because it could and should be performed by the claimant's spouse as part of her spousal duties," Kessler wrote, according to The Arizona Daily Star.

What are your rights when it comes to injury and insurance?

If you have been injured, it is important that you are familiar with your rights. It is a good idea to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer in your area to help you work through your case.


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