Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Award of Benefits to Determine whether Employee Failed to Provide Timely Notice of Injury

Work-related injuries can be incredibly stressful, especially if you fear losing your job or the financial consequences of taking time off to let your injury heal. Work injuries can also be difficult to diagnose when they are caused by repetitive tasks like lifting, bending, or sorting compared to a sudden injury or accident that is clearly linked to your job duties. At Pulgini & Norton, our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers provide legal guidance to individuals who have suffered work-related injuries. We are ready to put our experience and knowledge to use on your behalf so that you can receive the benefit award or settlement that you deserve.

In a recent case, the plaintiff worked as a sorter for a common mail carrier, which required lifting and overhead work as well as squatting. In 2009, she began complaining of pain in her neck, back, and shoulder. She reported a repetitive motion injury to her back and was out of work for a short period of time. Eventually, she returned to work against her doctor’s advice because she was afraid that she might lose her job. In 2011, she left her job due to increasing pain in her back. Three days later, she stated that she hurt her back while she was performing yard work at home. The worker received short and long-term disability payments followed by Social Security disability payments.

In 2015, the worker filed a claim for benefits based on a repetitive back strain injury. The judge assigned to the matter eventually adopted the opinion of one expert finding that the woman suffered a degenerative disc disease and that they were causally related to work for her employer and that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result. The judge rejected any insinuation that the injury stemmed from a non-work-related injury due to her many years on the job and awarded temporary incapacity benefits as well as permanent and total incapacity benefits.

The insurer appealed on the basis that the worker did not give appropriate and timely notice to her employer of her injury based on Section 41 of the Massachusetts workers compensation laws. In general, the statute says that an injured worker shall give notice to his or her employer of an injury “as soon as practicable after the happening thereof” and that claims must be filed within four years from the date that the employee became aware of the injury.

The appellate court reviewed evidence in the record and concluded that the lower court should have considered whether the worker gave notice to her employer “as soon as practicable.” The court must also determine whether, if the employee did not provide notice as soon as practicable, the lack of notice can be excused because the insurer or employer knew of the repetitive injury or that the insurer was not prejudiced by the late notice.

If you were hurt at work, you should speak to an experienced Boston workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your right to benefits and medical expenses reimbursements is protected. We understand how overwhelming this situation is, which is why we offer a free consultation to discuss your situation. Call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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