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Massachusetts Appellate Court Discusses Whether Acceptance of a Lump Sum Settlement Affects an Injured Worker’s Right to Appeal a Benefits Award

people in stableWhen you are injured at work and deemed eligible for benefit payments, you have the option of requesting a lump sum settlement instead of weekly or periodic payments. This is a decision that should not be taken lightly. As experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers, we have guided many injured workers through the claims process and helped them determine a strategy to maximize their recovery.

In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered whether accepting a lump sum payment affects the injured employee’s ability to appeal the amount of benefits awarded to the employee. The employee in the case was a materials handler who suffered an injury to his left arm while working. After filing a workers’ compensation claim with his employer’s insurer, the man received weekly benefit payments based on a $400 average weekly wage for a specific period of time. During the next four years, the employee changed jobs many times and eventually took work at a stable. He also claimed that his prior work injury still caused him pain. He did not suffer a new workplace injury but instead sought medical treatment. He eventually ceased working and did not return to work as a result of the pain he was experiencing. When he ceased working, his average weekly wage was determined to be $265. The worker filed a new claim for benefits, and the original insurer that provided benefit payments joined the action. The insurer claimed that the new job that the worker held created the basis for a new work injury.

The employee underwent a neutral examination by a doctor, and the doctor’s report was admitted as evidence in the new claim. The parties were also allowed to submit additional evidence, due to the complex medical issues in the case. Considering the report and the parties’ evidence, the judge concluded that while the employee was totally disabled at first, he was now capable of performing light-duty work. Based on this, he was awarded total disability benefits from the date that he ceased working and ongoing. The judge also determined that the man could earn roughly $64 per week and that his average weekly wage was $265. At the conclusion of this hearing, the worker requested a lump sum settlement from the insurer. He then filed an appeal.

On review, the employee argued that the judge improperly determined that the worker was capable of performing certain work duties and required the insurer to pay benefits based on a reduced average weekly wage. The appellate panel rejected the employee’s appeal, concluding that by accepting a lump sum settlement, the employee relinquished his rights against the insurer. The board further reasoned that changing any aspect of the employee’s award would result in a double recovery for the worker, which is improper. Based on these findings, the panel upheld the lower court’s order including a reduced average weekly wage.

Getting injured on the job is a devastating and confusing experience. Even minor injuries can create disruption and stress in your life. While you are recovering from your injuries and obtaining the medical treatment that you require, the seasoned workers’ compensation lawyers at Pulgini & Norton will help you assert your legal right to benefits payments. We provide a free consultation to help you learn more about your rights as an injured worker and how we can assist you with maximizing your recovery. To set up your free consultation, call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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