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Massachusetts Board Upholds Finding of Total Incapacitation for Employee Injured While Operating a Snow Plow

large snow plowOne of the most common issues that we come across as Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys is claims involving injured workers who have pre-existing conditions. Depending on the nature of your existing injury and your work-related injury, you may be allowed to recover benefit payments for the aggravation of a pre-existing injury. A recent workers’ compensation case highlights a number of issues involved with claims concerning a pre-existing injury.

The claimant worked at a car dealership as a salesman. As part of his responsibilities, he was required to clear snow from certain areas on the dealership property. During January 2009, the employee alleged that he suffered injuries while he was getting out of a snow plow machine. About 30 days later, he sought medical evaluation for a neck injury at the local medical facility. During this time, he continued to work as a salesman at the dealership until October 2009, at which time he quit.

Then, the man applied for workers’ compensation benefits regarding the neck injury that he sustained. He also included allegations regarding back pain. The employer refuted the claim, saying that it was not responsible for the neck injury or the back injury because the fall that occurred in January 2009 was not the sole cause of the overall injuries that he listed in the claim. Next, the employee underwent a medical examination by an impartial doctor, according to § 11A. Both parties submitted supplemental medical documents to the administrative law judge before a hearing was held on the employee’s claim.

After the hearing, the ALJ adopted the medical opinion of the impartial physician and of the employer’s medical expert. He also concluded that the man’s injuries resulted in complete incapacitation and that the back condition did not arise from a work-related injury. Despite this, the ALJ awarded medical and financial benefits for the man’s neck injuries. The employee filed an appeal regarding the benefits award, and the employer appealed the determination that the man was completely incapacitated.

The man alleged that the ALJ erred in adopting the impartial physician’s medical opinion, concluding that the back injury was not related to his job duties. The Board upheld the ALJ’s determination that the neck injury did not constitute the chief cause of the man’s back pain. Turning to the incapacity claim, the Board concluded that the ALJ acted within the scope of his authority by giving credence to the employee’s testimony regarding the nature of his injury. The Board also concluded that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support a finding of complete incapacity. Ultimately, the Board affirmed the ALJ’s conclusions and required the employer to compensate the man for his legal expenses.

If you have suffered a work injury and think that you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, the dedicated and knowledgeable attorneys at Pulgini & Norton are ready to help you assert your rights. We understand just how daunting this process can seem, especially if you are suffering physically from your injuries and financially from your lost wages. We serve victims throughout Boston and Massachusetts. Call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

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