Massachusetts Appellate Court Affirms Decision in Workers’ Compensation Benefits Case Involving Surveillance Footage of Injured Worker

If you were hurt at work, you may be entitled to benefits and medical expenses reimbursement through the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system. Our Boston-based team of work injury lawyers has handled a wide variety of injuries on behalf of workers throughout the state. As a result, we have encountered countless different issues and legal challenges when helping our clients ensure that they are treated fairly and receive the outcomes that they deserve.

One issue that often comes up in workers’ compensation claims is surveillance footage. Insurance companies don’t always have the worker’s best interests in mind, so they will frequently enlist the help of surveillance companies and private investigators to obtain footage that shows the claimant behaving in a way that suggests he or she is not injured. In a recent appellate claim, the Massachusetts Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s award of benefits that was based in part on surveillance footage that showed the injured worker fishing.

An impartial medical examiner initially stated that the employee could work on a limited part-time basis for only four hours a day. The video surveillance showed the employee actively engaged in fishing, however, which led the examiner to change his testimony to state that the employee would be capable of sitting and standing for five to six hours and that he could work 30 hours per week. The judge credited this testimony and made an award of benefits based on the examiner’s findings.

The employee appealed the award of benefits on several grounds, including a challenge to the judge’s reliance on the surveillance. Specifically, the worker claimed that the decision should be reversed because the judge improperly relied on the examiner’s change in opinion, which was based on facts that were not properly admitted in the claims proceeding. He alleged that the video showed him only fishing on a small boat for roughly three and a half hours.

The appellate court rejected this assertion, finding that the examiner’s change in testimony was based on more than just the number of hours that the employee was in the boat. Instead, the doctor relied on the entire surveillance tape, which totaled about 5 hours, and which showed the employee engaging in many activities to get ready to go fishing and returning to the dock including bending and twisting. Based on this display of dexterity, the examiner changed his conclusion that the employee could only work 20 hours a week to 30 hours a week. For this reason, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s award of benefits.

If you suffered some type of work-related injury it is critical for you to speak to an experienced Boston work injury lawyer as soon as you can. There are time limits that impact your right to workers’ compensation benefits and there are certain steps that you should take in order to protect your rights. Pulgini & Norton, LLP offers a free consultation to help you learn more about whether you are entitled to benefits and whether we can assist you. Call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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