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Massachusetts Appellate Court Remands Award of Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefits Based on Judge’s Failure to Cite Evidentiary Support in his Opinion

Although any work-related injury can be devastating and painful, permanent and total injuries are the most severe because they have a lasting impact on the worker’s life and future job prospects. Employers and insurance carriers often fight claims involving permanent and total disabilities because of the amount of benefits and medical expenses reimbursement that they may end up having to pay. As seasoned Boston work injury lawyers, we can assist you with ensuring that you receive the full amount of compensation that you deserve for your current and future accident-related needs.

In a recent claim, the worker experienced a back injury while he was lifting a garage door at work in February 2017. He missed six months of work and eventually returned to light duty for the same employer for roughly nine hours each week. A few months later, he was terminated and applied for unemployment.

He filed a claim for compensation for the back injury which resulted in him receiving temporary total incapacity benefits from the date of the injury to August 2007 and partial incapacity benefits from August 2007 ongoing. He filed a claim for permanent and total incapacity benefits in April 2011. The judge ordered the payment of these benefits.

An impartial medical examiner examined the employee in 2008 and 2011. according to his written report, the employee suffered a lumbar strain that rendered him incapable of performing any work based on his complaints of severe pain. He testified that this condition was permanent and that the worker was totally disabled.

The insurer appealed on several grounds, including an argument that there was not enough evidence to support a finding that the employee was permanent and totally disabled as a result of the work injury. Reviewing the record, the appellate court concluded that the judge correctly evaluated the evidence showing that there was a permanent injury.

The insurer also challenged the ruling on the basis that the employee failed to show that there was a causally related worsening of his condition since the determination that he was partially incapacitated in 2009. The insurer alleged that the only basis for his worsening condition was his advancing age.

Turning to the record again, the court found some evidence to support an accident-related cause for the worsening of the injury including the employee’s testimony about worsening pain and the doctor’s testimony that the treatment of the employee’s pain had escalated dramatically and required stronger doses of pain medication. In his opinion, however, the judge did not make a specific finding regarding whether the employee’s underlying industrial condition had worsened since the earlier award of benefits. The judge cited the employee’s testimony regarding worsening pain, but he did not adopt a medical opinion to support a finding that the condition was not simply due to advancing age. The court remanded the case for further findings from the judge.

If you were hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. At Pulgini & Norton, our experienced team of Boston work injury lawyers offers a free consultation so that you can learn more about our team and how we can assist you with seeking the benefits and medical expense reimbursements that you deserve. Call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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