Massachusetts Appellate Court Remands Case for Further Proceedings After Issue Regarding Whether Employee Provided Sufficient Notice of Injury Arose

If you are injured on the job, it is critical that you report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. If you fail to report the work-related injury, you may experience issues and delays when it comes to receiving workers’ compensation benefits. At Pulgini & Norton, we have assisted numerous Boston residents with ensuring that they follow the correct procedures when asserting a claim for Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits and we are ready to assist you.

A Massachusetts appellate court recently considered a claim involving an issue regarding whether the injured worker reported the injury appropriately. The worker was employed with a construction company as a journeyman ironworker since 2005. During the 1990s, he experienced back pain and he reported this to his employer at the time of hire. He did not seek any medical treatment for his back pain until 2009 when his primary care physician prescribed him painkillers. He continued to receive back pain treatment from this doctor until 2012. He was diagnosed during this time with spondylolisthesis and a minor disc herniation.

In December 2012, the man was lifting a heavy beam when he felt a sharp pain that radiated down his left leg and into his foot. He went home and the next day he continued to experience excruciating pain that caused him to fall at one point. He did not report the injury until this day when he called to say that he had suffered an injury while lifting the beam. He did not fill out an accident injury report and testified that he was afraid of losing his job if he reported the injury. He returned to work and continued to perform tasks for his employer for the next six months on light duty.

He underwent a surgical procedure for his spinal injury but did not tell his doctors that he suffered an injury on the job. He tried to go back to work after the surgery, but he was removed from the job site because he did not have a return-to-work note from his doctor. On July 2013, his back gave out while he was lifting a 150-pound post and it resulted in the fracture of his left middle finger. He filed a claim for workers compensation benefits and entered into a $15,000 lump sum settlement. The agreement references the fractured finger only and made no mention of the back injury.

The man experienced subsequent back injuries and filed a claim to seek benefits and medical expenses reimbursements for his back injury treatment. The insurer raised the defense of late notice and prejudice, stating that because the man had not sought benefits for the back injury earlier he waived his ability to seek them now. The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system requires workers to notify employers of injuries as soon as practicable after the injury and any delay in providing notice may be deemed prejudicial to the insurer.

The lower court rejected the defense finding that the insurer did not raise it at a timely point during the proceedings, but the appellate court reversed this finding sufficient evidence that put the employee on notice that the employer was claiming late notice and prejudice as a defense. Accordingly, the appellate court remanded the matter for additional proceedings to determine whether the employee provided late notice that prejudiced the insurer.

If you were hurt at work, you probably have countless questions about your rights and how you should go about protecting them. Our seasoned team of Boston work injury lawyers provides a free consultation to discuss your situation and how we can assist you. Whether you suffered a minor injury or a catastrophic injury, we are prepared to fight diligently for your rights. To schedule your free consultation call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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