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Family members can receive payment for care under workers’ comp

People who care for family members injured while working can receive payment under workers’ compensation laws, according to a recent decision by the Arizona Supreme Court.

The state’s high court overturned a decision by a lower court that denied payment to the spouse of a disabled worker for caring for her husband in the place of a medical assistant.

The case was filed originally in 2008 by Sabino Carbajal, who was partially paralyzed in an industrial accident in 1999. Carbajal’s employer, Phelps Dodge Corp., paid for Carbajal to receive in-home medical care for several years following his accident.

Carbajal filed the suit claiming that his wife, who cared for him when a medical assistant was not available, qualified for compensation from Phelps Dodge under the state’s worker’s compensation law.

An initial review of the case by an administrative law judge denied Carbajal’s claim because the services provided by his wife were “akin to the day-to-day duties assumed by a spouse in accord with the marriage commitment.”

To qualify for compensation, the judge stated, Carbajal’s wife would need to be licensed to provide medical care.  The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the judge’s ruling.

The Arizona Supreme Court overturned the decision and stated that there was no “connection between licensure and compensation.”

The high court’s ruling, though, does not guarantee Carbajal’s wife will be compensated. An administrative law judge could still withhold payment if the judge decided the care provided was not “reasonably required.”

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