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Minnesota Court Defines Total Disability by Loss of Earning Capacity for Physician with Injured Arm

A Minnesota court defined total disability by the loss of earning capacity for a physician with an injured arm. Dr. Thurstorn Weum suffered a bicep tendon tear and a sprained shoulder while moving furniture in his home. As a result, he also experienced nerve damage. His doctors concluded he had a permanent impairment due to the continued severe pain and muscle cramping when using his arm.

Prior to his injury, Dr. Weum worked as an obstetrician gynecologist (“OB GYN”). A large part of his practice involved delivering babies. It also involved pre and postnatal care for his patients with examinations.

Following his injury he returned to work, but could only see patients with someone's assistance. He had limited use of his hand and arm. This prevented him from being able to perform even simple things like pelvic exams. As a result, he had to hire another doctor to handle the deliveries and assistant with patient care.

Reduced Earning Capacity Equals Disability

In disability claims, earnings pre and post disability are important. The Minnesota Court examined Dr. Weum’s earnings before and after his injury. Due to the reduced work he was peromfring himself, his income dropped significantly. He was no longer delivering babies which made up a large portion of his earnings.

The Court determined that it was the loss of earnings capacity and not the loss income itself that left him totally disabled. In other words, since he was unable to earn his usual salary, he was disabled.

As disability insurance attorneys, we look for the different angles to establish total disability. Earnings is one of the important factors to examine. As the Minnesota Court points out, if someone can no longer earn their usual income from their occupation due to their medical condition, they are disabled from that occupation.

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