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Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefits to Injured Construction Worker

spinal fusion xrayWhen an employee suffers multiple injuries on the job over a period of time, the workers’ compensation claims process can become even more complicated. This shouldn’t stop you from receiving the benefits and fair treatment that you deserve. As seasoned Boston work injury lawyers, we are ready to help you maximize your right to recovery.

A recent decision from a Massachusetts appellate court highlights this situation. The employee worked for a city highway department as an operator of heavy equipment and general laborer when he was injured using a jumping jack compactor in 2008. Roughly one year later, the employee suffered another injury when he hit a pothole while driving a road paver, which caused him to jump out of his seat. The employee sought workers’ compensation benefits, and the judge ordered the insurer to pay total incapacity benefits on a continuing basis. The insurer appealed this finding.

The employee required a surgical lumbar fusion procedure, and the judge presiding over the case deemed the medical issues in the case to be complex. Although the insurer accepted liability for the first injury affecting the upper portion of the man’s back, it denied liability for the second injury affecting the lower portion of his back.

At a hearing during which the employee testified, the judge concluded that the injuries both stemmed from the employee’s job duties and that he was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the injuries. The judge relied on the employee’s testimony regarding his pain and limitations, restrictions, age, background and training, and experience. The judge also relied on a medical doctor’s opinion and testimony that the spinal fusions were a direct and necessary treatment for the injuries sustained.

The insurer appealed, arguing that the judge did not consider all of the medical evidence that was submitted. The appellate court rejected this on the basis that the lower judge had listed all of the medical evidence as exhibits for the hearing. Since the judge listed the evidence, the appellate court presumed that the evidence was taken into consideration. Additionally, the judge stated on the record that all of the medical evidence was taken into consideration. The appellate court referenced Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws that provide the presiding judge with discretion to adopt the medical expert opinion of one expert over another without providing an explanation for the decision.

The appellate court next rejected the insurer’s second argument that the judge failed to discuss the issue of causation. The record clearly indicated that the judge accepted one of the expert’s opinions regarding causation between the injuries and the need for the spinal fusion surgeries. The insurer argued that this expert had made an error regarding the timing of the employee’s work history and accidents, but the appellate court found any error inconsequential and affirmed the lower court’s award of benefits.

If you were injured at work, let us help you protect your rights while you cope with your injuries and the serious inconvenience that results. At Pulgini & Norton, we believe that every injured worker deserves compassionate and attentive legal counsel. Call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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