Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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tile-roof-2-1226071-mWorkers’ compensation is a system that was designed to provide compensation for workers who become injured or sick due to their job. As a condition of availing themselves of the system, workers forfeit the right to pursue any other potential legal remedies under the common law, and the employer gives up any judgments or determinations regarding fault. If an employee becomes injured or sick in a manner that arises out of their employment, they are entitled to workers’ compensation. However, in order for that system to work properly, it must be funded adequately.

The Massachusetts Attorney General recently announced a case of purported workers’ compensation fraud by two separate business owners that were reportedly indicted for failure to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, according to the Attorney General.

The Executive Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau announced that his office will work in concert with the Attorney General’s office to investigate this case, and any similar cases that may attempt to defraud the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system.

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busIn a recent case related to workers’ compensationCommonwealth v. Parker, Mass. App. Ct. (2015), the case arose out of a scenario in which the defendant was convicted by a jury of having purportedly misled a police officer engaged in a criminal investigation. The defendant appealed the decision, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction.

The court included the following facts in its opinion. On the day of the incident, a police officer was dispatched to the location on a report of shots fired at a bus driver. The defendant (bus driver) informed the police officer that a person boarded the bus, brandished a weapon, and ordered her to give him all of her money. He then allegedly fired a shot at her, which caused a bullet to be lodged in the driver’s seat. The driver then attempted to stand in order to reach for her wallet, but the assailant hit her, causing her to fall backwards and resulting in injury. The assailant then allegedly fired three additional shots, two of which purportedly pierced her sleeve, but the bullet did not injure her.

The defendant then reportedly described her assailant to the police officer. She also purportedly informed the officer of the type of weapon that had been used.

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dentalIn a recent workers’ compensation case, Riley v. City of Lynn, Mass. App. Ct. (2014), the court issued an opinion on the complicated area of the interplay of injured police officer benefits and retirement benefits.

In the case, a police officer had incurred extensive injury to his mouth in the line of duty, such that a decision in 1984 declared that he was permanently disabled, under the legal sense of the term, and that he was accordingly entitled to all of the benefits and compensation afforded to disabled police officers under the law.

In 2008, there was a bench trial that concluded that the injuries to the officer’s teeth and mouth were the natural and proximate cause of the work-related injury, and that therefore so was his need for a full mouth restoration. The judge thus found that the proposed course of treatment and projected expenses were reasonable.

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guard towerIn an opinion published earlier this month, Flaherty v. Sheriff of Suffolk County, Mass. Sup. Jud. Ct. (2014), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had before it the issue of how assault pay for injured officers interacts with workers’ compensation benefits under Massachusetts Law.

The employee in the case, Flaherty, was working as a Suffolk County correction officer, when he was injured as a result of prisoner violence. The Department of Industrial Accidents found that he was partially disabled, and as a result awarded him workers’ compensation benefits, culminating in a lump sum settlement at the end of a several year period, which was agreed to. Flaherty then filed a claim in Superior Court at the end of the period, claiming that the Commonwealth was required to compensate him with assault pay during the period he had been receiving the workers’ compensation benefits.

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2 reportsTwo reports released this month have had some startling findings regarding the state of workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts and nationwide.

One report was conducted by a group called ProPublica, an investigative journalism organization, in conjunction with NPR. The other report was conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Both studies found an overall decline in the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that workers received, which was attributed to changes by lawmakers, and also suggested to have been a result of the lobbying actions on behalf of big businesses.

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handicap parkingThe Massachusetts Appeals Court recently reached a decision in the case of Litchfield’s Case, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 216 (2014), which is instructive on the matter of workers’ compensation awards for psychological complications arising out of work-related injuries.

In the case, Robert M. Litchfield had been working as a heavy equipment mechanic for his employer from 1984 until he suffered a serious industrial injury to his elbow and shoulder. Due to his pain and inability to work, which were a direct result of the physical injuries he suffered in the incident, as a result of his limitations, he developed psychiatric conditions, including anxiety and depression.

The administrative judge who initially heard Litchfield’s workers’ compensation claim for loss of psychiatric function denied his claim, finding that the benefits for loss of psychiatric function were not available to him. The reviewing board affirmed the decision, which Litchfield appealed.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a recent Massachusetts workers’ compensation case, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued a ruling on the propriety of an appellate panel reversing a commissioner’s decision in a complex medical case regarding whether continued disability benefits were proper.

In the opinion, In Re Villiard’s Case, Mass. App. Ct. (2014), the employee Villiard worked as an insulation specialist for the employer for 18 years. His duties included installing attic insulation, drilling holes into the sides of buildings, and removing vinyl. The job duties required him to lift heavy objects, climb ladders, and crawl through tight spaces. On the day of the incident, Villiard injured his back while carrying heavy tubes up a flight of stairs.

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quilt patternThe Massachusetts Court of Appeals made a ruling recently in a workers’ compensation case that sheds some light on what happens when new evidence regarding workers’ compensation injuries comes to light decades after the incident occurs.

In the case, In re Baillargeon’s Case, Mass. Ct. App. (2014), the employee Dorothy Baillargeon suffered an injury in 1978 during the course of her duties as a nurse at a Commonwealth hospital, when a patient kicked her in the left temple region of her head. As a result of emotional and physical symptoms, the employee pursued a workers’ compensation claim. The impartial medical examiner who examined her in 1984 concluded that the accident resulted in a contusion of the employee’s left temporal lobe, and that it caused post-concussion symptoms including hostility, emotional dysfunction, depression, and more. As a result, he concluded that she had no capacity for performance of employment duties. A psychologist concurred in the prognosis and classified the employee’s resultant incapacity for employment as total and permanent. She was thus deemed entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

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stairsIn a recent federal case, Cavicchi v. Raytheon Company, the district court had before it several issues arising out of an employment-related injury, which implicated the exclusivity of workers’ compensation benefits.

The case arose out of an incident in which the employee fell on a staircase at work and then went to the doctor. The employee then returned to work the next day. However, instead of being able to work, his employer told him that he was required to undergo a blood test, and he was suspended from work pending an investigation of some sort.

The employer additionally referred the plaintiff to two doctors on two separate occasions, and at each appointment, the plaintiff spoke to the doctors but was not examined physically. The employer then placed the employee on long term disability pay, roughly half of his normal salary. The employee consulted with his union director, who informed him that the employer may have used the purported disability as a pretense in order to suspend the plaintiff, since under his contract, the employer could not terminate the employee without cause.

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pillsThe Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently issued a brief decision in a workers’ compensation case, In re Okraska’s Case, Mass Ct. App. (2014), which may become problematic for employees living with back issues.

The case does not contain much factual information, but based on the discussion in the opinion, it seems the employee filing for the claim had some sort of underlying back injury or issue prior to the incident that occurred at work for which he was filing a claim.

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