Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds for Worker Claiming Partial Incapacity Benefits

The Massachusetts Appeals Court released an opinion, In re Evans’ Case, reversing the decisions of the Department of Industrial Accidents and the administrative judge denying a worker’s claim for partial incapacity benefits under G.L. c. 152 § 35.

While working at his job with a construction company, the employee suffered injuries to his eye and abdomen as the result of an explosion. The company’s insurer accepted the employee’s claim and paid workers’ compensation benefits. The issue in this case was the employee’s claim for incapacity benefits, which hinged on whether the employee’s earning capacity was diminished as a result of any disability caused by the workplace explosion. Such benefits award compensation not for the injury sustained but instead for the impairment of earning capacity caused by the injury. The injury must somehow lessen the employee’s ability to work. If an employee must refrain from engaging in his former work because of the considerable risk of re-injury, and he pursues employment that provides lower wages to avoid the risk, he may be found partially incapacitated.

At a hearing before the administrative law judge, the employee testified as to his work duties while at the construction company where the accident occurred, as well as his subsequent employment. The employee’s vocational expert also supported his testimony. Although the employee testified that he was performing mostly field work, the administrative judge made a finding that his work duties were primarily conducted in the office but also at job sites. The court found that the judge’s finding was directly contrary to the evidence at the hearing.

Another witness offering testimony at the hearing was an impartial medical examiner, who had evaluated the employee. The examiner testified that the employee should not be allowed to work in any industrial environment that could endanger his eye, and that it was his opinion that the employee should not continue the kind of work he was doing at the time he sustained his injury. Based on the evidence, the court found that the employee was unable to obtain work that pays him as much as his job with the construction company, unless he exposes himself to an unacceptable risk. Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the employee and vacated the judgment after finding that the decision of the administrative judge that the employee’s eye injury did not result in any loss of earning capacity was unsupported by the evidence.

If you have suffered injuries while working on a job site, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries and lost wages. The Massachusetts attorneys at Pulgini & Norton offer experienced legal representation for injured clients pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. To discuss your claim with one of our hardworking attorneys, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online and schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules Against Injured Worker, Discontinues Temporary Total Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published July 29, 2015

Massachusetts Appeals Court Sides with Injured Correctional Officer in Workers’ Compensation Case, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published June 26, 2015

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