I have been asked many times by injured employees, “Can I move out of state? Will this affect my Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits?” The answer I always give my clients is it depends. And, it truly does depend on a number of factors, including the location of the move and the type of benefits involved. But, we can typically find a way to make the out-of-state move work while still protecting all of the injured workers’ benefits.
Factor 1: Can you perform a diligent job search in your new location?
If an injured employee is completely off of work and collecting temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, he or she is required to conduct a diligent job search. There is no case law or statute that specifically defines “diligent job search” or specifies the number of job contacts that must be made or the geographic area within which jobs must be sought. Rather, whether a diligent job search has been conducted is a fact question for the judge.
The central question I ask my clients when assessing this factor is what is the new area like? Is it a city or a small town? Are there going to be job opportunities there? Will those job opportunities be similar to those that are available in the city they are currently living in? If my client is looking to move to a city that is similarly situated in terms of size and job opportunity then I’m typically confident that he or she will be able to perform a diligent job search in the new location. Of course, if you move to the new location for a job offer, this factor is largely moot unless the job does not come close to replacing your date of injury wages.
Factor 2: Would you be deemed to have withdrawn from the labor market in your new location?
Under Minnesota Statutes section 176.101, subd. 1(f), an employee’s temporary partial disability benefits shall cease if the employee withdraws from the labor market; however, moving to a new community does not preclude an employee from receiving wage loss benefits if there is a reasonable expectation of earning a reasonable livelihood in the town of destination. This is the proper test for determining whether your wage loss benefits will cease after moving to a new community.
If the injured worker moves to a new community where the employment prospects are substantially worse, or virtually non-existent, his or her wage loss benefits will be in jeopardy. The insurer will argue that the move is the reason why the employee cannot find work, not the work injury. An example I often use with clients is a move from the Twin Cities to a small town in Montana. It is fairly clear in this circumstance that the Twin Cities offers greater employment opportunities and the insurer may be able to make a colorable argument that the employee is effectively withdrawing from the labor market. It is a fine line though. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals in Giles v. Minnesota Department of Transportation determined that a move from the Twin Cities to Albert Lea was not sufficient to cut off wage benefits under this theory. The court ruled that Albert Lea was not so sparsely populated to the point where job opportunities were virtually non-existent.
If an insurer does cut off your wage benefits because of a move, benefits can be restarted if you reenter the labor market prior to 90 days after reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI) and before receiving 130 weeks of TTD.
Factor 3: What impact does an out-of-state move have on my rehabilitation benefits?
If an employee voluntarily relocates to another city or town, the same analysis is used for rehabilitation benefits. You will still be able to seek rehabilitation services, including vocational rehabilitation services from your qualified rehabilitation consultant (QRC) as long as there is a reasonable expectation of earning a reasonable livelihood in the town of destination.
Don’t wait to get an attorney involved if you have a Minnesota workers’ compensation claim. The process can be complex and you want to be sure you receive the full benefits you are entitled. Contact Meuser Law Office, P.A. for a free no-obligation consultation and claim evaluation. At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we keep our clients informed of the process as well as what to expect each step of the way. Call us today at 1-877-746-5680.