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In an appeal before the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board, an employee’s claim for psychological disability caused by work events ten years prior was denied, affirming the judge’s findings that the employee had not met hipsychological injurys burden of showing that his mental disability has been caused by his industrial injury.  The employee’s most recent claim for § 34, or alternatively § 34A, benefits from March 30, 2012 and continuing had been denied based on findings of three previous decisions.  While finding the employee incapacitated, the judge had not found a causal relationship to the work-related accident of 2003. On appeal, the employee sought to show that non-work related events, such as his divorce and unemployment, had been triggered by the work-related injury and related depression.

The employee’s case had a heavy procedural history, and his initial claim was founded on an alleged psychiatric injury suffered while working as a maintenance mechanic aide for his employer.  In 2003, the employee suffered anxiety, which led to his inability to work. Other life events took place, including a divorce and financial difficulties.

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Employers are required to maintain workplace safety standards set forth by federal law.  The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), recently cited a used auto parts busiauto repair safety violationness in Bellingham, Massachusetts for failing to abide by required workplace safety standards.  This failure led to an employee’s death, and was preventable.

OSHA stated that the employee was working for the company when he was struck in the head by a chain come-a-long device.  He had been attempting to inflate and mount a multi-piece rim wheel onto a vehicle. Days later, he died. This type of incident, labeled a “struck by” hazard by OSHA, continues to cause many fatalities and serious injuries.  Typically, this kind of injury is caused by impact between a piece of equipment and an injured person.

Inspectors working for OSHA in the Braintree Area Office found that the company had not provided adequate training and proper safeguards that would have protected the worker, as well as other employees.  OSHA specifically maintains a publication for safety methods related to servicing multi-piece and single-piece rim wheels.

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In an appeal taken from the reviewing board of the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, an injured worker sought review of an administrative law judge’s order that reducalculatorced her earlier award of weekly benefits. The appellate court analyzed the previous orders and determined that the most recent order had evidentiary support, and in fact it addressed an omission in the earlier decision, which was the failure to calculate the employee’s earning capacity.

In July 2011, the injured worker filed a workers’ compensation claim on the ground that she had been totally temporarily incapacitated due to a work-related injury. She alleged that she suffered from bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome since June 2011. After a hearing, the administrative judge had ordered that the insurer pay the worker $253.43 per week, as partial benefits according to Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws. This amount was based on her average weekly wage ($523.19) before her injury, and it was the maximum benefit available to the employee.

However, the judge had not included a computation of the worker’s earning capacity, as is required by law. Both parties appealed to the reviewing board. The board then remanded the case, and the judge found that based on the prevailing minimum wage, the employee’s earning capacity was $320 per week for a period of her incapacity, and then $360 per week for the later period. The judge found that based on this earning capacity, the employee would receive $121.91 for approximately six months and then $97.91 per week continuing forward. She appealed, and the reviewing board affirmed the judge’s order.

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The Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board issued a decision in a workers’ compensation case centered on whether a judge relied upon necessary evidentiary support for causation.  The Board stated the rule that the proof of a causal relationship between an accident and a disability must rest upon expert medical testimony.  In this case, the judge had relied on a surveillance video, which is non-medical evidence, to find that a causal relationship had ended, as of the date of the surveillance. The judge held that the employee’s future incapacity and future need for treatment had ceased, since the employee apparently moved without discomfort.  On review, the Board reversed the fimanhole covernding that the injury was not a major cause of treatment needs after the date of the video; the finding had not been based on required medical evidence.

The employee worked in construction/road repair as a laborer, and he felt a pain in his back after he lifted a manhole cover in November 2009.  After a medical examination according to § 11A, the physician opined that the work accident was the major cause of the employee’s need for treatment and his disability. The physician estimated that after the exam (March 11, 2011), the employee may be capable of returning to work within six to 12 months.

The judge adopted the medical opinion and then reviewed surveillance videos, finding that the employee had not been incapacitated as of September 1, 2011 (the date of the video).  The judge also found that the industrial inquiry was not a major cause of disability after this date.

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Some occupations are inherently dangerous, especially those that require workers to climb ladders or rooftops.  Falling from either of these locations can lead to catastrophic injuries and even death.  According to Massachusetts law, injured workers who are hurt in the course and scope of workers on roofemployment may pursue a workers’ compensation claim against their employer.

Additionally, the United States Department of Labor, and specifically the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), protects the rights of injured workers. Recently, OSHA fined a gutter cleaning company for repeatedly exposing workers to dangerous hazards without proper safeguards and for a series of fall accidents suffered by their workers. The company specializes in gutter cleaning, repair, and installation. While headquartered in New Jersey, the company provides services on the Eastern seaboard as well as in Texas and Illinois.

According to the press release issued by OSHA, the most recent accident occurred when a worker in Massachusetts fell nine feet to the ground while cleaning a gutter.  The worker was not using fall protection, nor was his foreman, who had been exposed to a fall of over 20 feet from the roof next to the house.

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In a recent appeal before the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents Review Board, the workers’ compensation insurer for the employer argued that the employee’s back surgery was not causally related to his work injury. In this case, there had been a discrepancy of facts supporting the judge’s decision to award benefits to an injured employee.

surgery

The employee, 44 years old at the time of the hearing, injured his back in 1991 while working at a supermarket, and he underwent a laminectomy (also known as decompression surgery, it involves enlarging the spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves) in the following year. In 1993, the employee returned to work for his employer, an electrical company, until he was laid off in 2009. He briefly returned to work for a large order in 2011 and then was laid off in March 2012.

According to the employee, he did not recall a specific incident that injured his back, but he stated that his injury took place during repetitive work-related carrying and lifting.

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In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents Review Board addressed whether a judge’s decision denying an injured employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits could be upheld when medical evidence submitted by the parties had not been considered, including the employee’s most recent disability opinion.  After suffering an injury while working as a cook and laborer for his employer, the employee in this caseplates of food had received total incapacity benefits according to Massachusetts law (§ 34 benefits). Once the employer sought to modify or discontinue these benefits, a hearing was held. Ultimately, the judge found that the injured employee’s medical documentation was dated, and he found the employee partially disabled, capable of light-duty work.  The employee appealed, and the Board analyzed the judge’s decision and findings of fact.

After being treated at the hospital for a back injury due to a work-related slip and fall, the employee in this case was unable to perform his work, and he remained out of work at the time of the hearing.

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In a decision involving the successive insurer rule, the Massachusetts Reviewing Board of the Department of Industrial Accidents held that a medical opinion must support a finding of causality between an injury and compensability and that the evidence in the case at hand indicated the injured worker’s incapacity was due to an industrial accident that occurred while working for the first insured. The first workers’ compensation insurer for apainter ladder painting company was deemed liable for incapacity benefits awarded to an employee who, after suffering an industrial accident with the first company, had secured employment with another company, while continuing to suffer from residual knee problems.

In their review, the Board analyzed the judge’s reliance on medical evidence. In order to shift legal responsibility from one insurer to another, the Board made clear there must be a supportive medical opinion. In this case, the Board rejected the first insurer’s argument that the worker’s knee complaints were related to his work for the second company.

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Under Massachusetts law, employees who suffer work-related injuries may be entitled to benefits and medical costs. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides reimbursement for medical costs, reduced wages due to a disability, and other coverage, such as job retraining.  In addition to state law, the federal government sets forth standards to ensure the safety of employees throughout the nation.  As federal agencies, the United States Department of Labor and specifically the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) protect the rights of injured workers.

pipeIn some cases, employees may be aware of an unsafe working condition or a workplace hazard. OSHA gives employees the right to file a complaint if they believe there is a serious work hazard or if their employer is not following OSHA standards.  Workers need not know whether a specific OSHA standard has in fact been violated in order to file their complaint.  In many cases, OSHA will inspect the workplace upon receiving a complaint.  If you are injured at work, and your employer did in fact commit an OSHA violation, you may be entitled to recover damages in addition to any workers’ compensation benefits you may receive.

Recently, a Boston seafood wholesaler was cited by OSHA, and the agency issued the employer fines for violating industry and OSHA safety standards.  In fact, an employee was fatally injured on the job in March 2016 after inhaling ammonia that had leaked from a burst pipe in his employer’s machine shop.  OSHA inspected and found serious violations.

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Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, Reviewing Board affirmed a judge’s decision to continue an award of section 34A permanent and total incapacity benefits, according to Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, to an injured auto mechanic. The workers’ compensation insurer for the worker’s employer had moved to modify or discontinue his award of benefits.  In this appeal, the Board assessed auto mechanicwhether the insurer’s argument that an administrative judge had erred was legitimate.  Ultimately, the Board held that the judge had not erred in relying on a medical opinion that causally linked the employee’s disability to his work injury.

The employee worked as an auto mechanic for most of his career, and as a 58-year-old, he engaged in heavy work, such as lifting up to 100 pounds alone and 250 pounds with the assistance of others. The employee suffered a back injury at work, while bending and lifting. The insurer accepted the workers’ compensation case and paid his section 34 temporary total incapacity benefits.

After undergoing surgery as well as physical therapy and taking multiple pain medications, the employee continued to suffer.  The insurer filed a complaint for a modification or discontinuance of his benefits, and the employee joined a claim for section 34A permanent and total incapacity benefits.  Twice, administrative judges found that the employee remained permanently and totally disabled, and one complaint was withdrawn before the hearing. At a hearing for the fourth complaint for modification or discontinuance, the judge adopted the opinion of the employee’s examining orthopedist.

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