Although injured workers are entitled to benefits for injuries that happen on the job, there are some procedural rules and defenses that employers and insurance companies can use to avoid paying benefits. One of these rules is called the serious and willful conduct rule. As experienced Boston workers’ compensation lawyers, we have handled numerous cases that involve this issue.
The Massachusetts appellate court recently considered a claim involving the serious and willful conduct rule. The employee was 48 at the time the injury occurred and was an immigrant from Albania. He did not speak or write English and provided testimony in the proceedings through an interpreter. He worked as a truck driver starting in 2006 and was involved in a rollover accident while on the job in 2012. He underwent a spinal surgery following this accident and settled the associated workers’ compensation claim in 2014. The settlement agreement excluded the disc herniation procedure and only encompassed liability for soft tissue injuries in his lumbar region.
The man started working for another employee in 2015 and was shortly involved in another accident while driving a truck on the job that resulted in injury to his lower back. He was driving with a suspended license at the time of this accident. The administrative law judge assigned to the claim initially denied his request for benefits. The employee appealed seeking payment of benefits along with reimbursement for medical expenses. The Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund defended against the appeal asserting many different arguments, including an argument that the employee acted serious and willfully and was therefore barred from seeking benefits.