Massachusetts Appellate Court Remands Decision Denying Compensation for Psychiatric Injury Resulting from Attack on Injured Worker

Under Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, some psychiatric conditions that arise from a work-related situation are compensable. In order for your psychiatric injury to be deemed work-related, it is often necessary to consult with an experienced work injury attorney. We have seen firsthand just how complicated this type of legal action can be and how devastating it can be when an injured worker fails to receive the compensation and benefits that he or she deserves.

In a recent claim, an employee appealed a decision from an administrative law judge concluding that his physical injuries had resolved and that he did not have a psychiatric condition that impaired or limited his ability to find employment. The judge also concluded that the treatment that he received for post-traumatic stress disorder was not reasonably necessary or related to the work incident.

The employee worked as a court officer from 1997 to 2012 and performed a variety of duties, such as guiding prisoners throughout the courtroom and courthouse. He was involved in an altercation with a prisoner that required him to be taken to the hospital, where he was treated for injuries to his wrist, right arm, and ribs. He complained of experiencing headaches and vertigo several months after the incident.

The man filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and the employer accepted liability. The parties stipulated that his injuries resolved on May 2, 2013. At the conference at which the parties made this stipulation, the worker also joined a claim seeking benefits for psychiatric counseling and additional compensation. The employer contested the request and stated that the psychiatric counseling was not a direct cause of the work-related incident. The judge allowed the parties to submit additional evidence regarding the PTSD and psychiatric counseling claim. Ultimately, the judge concluded that the psychiatric issue was not related to the work injury and rejected the claim for additional benefits. The judge further concluded that the employee did not have a psychiatric condition that prevented him from working or that limited his ability to perform certain work duties.

The employee appealed, arguing that the judge made a reversible error when he failed to include certain reports from a licensed social worker in his findings.  According to Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, judges must list or consider all of the medical evidence submitted at a hearing. If a judge fails to do this, the matter must be recommitted for consideration of the omitted evidence. The judge is not required to comment on all of the evidence, but it must be listed among the evidence considered in reaching a holding. Since the judge failed to list the evidence, the appellate court remanded the matter for additional consideration.

At Pulgini & Norton, we pride ourselves on providing injured workers in Massachusetts with compassionate, attentive, and experienced legal counsel. We will work diligently to ensure that your workers’ compensation claim is handled in a timely and appropriate manner and that you pursue the outcome that you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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