Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Denial of Psychiatric Benefits Based on Lower Court’s Failure to Consider Social Worker’s Reports

Work-related injuries aren’t just physical in nature. They can also involve psychiatric injuries like PTSD. At Pulgini & Norton, we have provided diligent and compassionate legal assistance to injured workers suffering a variety of work-related harms. We know how intimidating the claims process can be and how frustrating it feels to wonder whether you will be able to return to work in the same capacity. We are standing by and ready to assist you with asserting your right to benefits and medical expenses reimbursements.

In a recent Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim, an injured worker appealed a finding from the court that his physical injuries had resolved and that he did not suffer psychiatric injuries that limited his ability to work. The order also concluded that his claim for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was unreasonable and not related to his injury. The man worked as a court officer from 1997 until 2012, which involved providing security services in the courtroom and escorting prisoners. He was involved in an altercation with a prisoner in 2012 that resulted in him being taken to the hospital. He reported experiencing headaches and vertigo months later.

Initially, the employer accepted liability for the man’s injuries, but the insurer contested the claim for psychiatric injuries. The presiding judge adopted the opinion of one of the testifying doctors that the man did not have any psychiatric injuries or neurological impairment, and also denied the man’s claim for reimbursement for treatments related to his claimed psychiatric injury. The employee appealed.

The worker’s first argument on appeal was that the lower court’s decision should be reversed because the judge failed to list or discuss reports from a licensed social worker. Reviewing the record, the appellate court was unable to conclude whether the lower court reviewed the reports. According to Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, a judge’s failure to list or give consideration to medical reports submitted into evidence requires a reversal for consideration of the evidence. Judges are not required to provide comment on every piece of evidence submitted, but they are required to consider each piece of evidence in reaching a decision.

The worker’s second argument asserted that the judge based findings regarding his disabilities that were not consistent with the evidence. Again reviewing the record, the appellate court concluded that there was no evidence in the record that supported the dates that the judge chose. Any date that a judge chooses to terminate or modify benefits must be based on a change in the employee’s medical condition or vocational condition.

Based on these errors, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision and recommitted the matter for further proceedings. The court also awarded attorney’s fees to the worker.

If you were hurt at work, you don’t need to navigate the workers’ compensation system alone. We have handled numerous cases involving a broad range of injuries, including minor injuries that heal and catastrophic life-changing disabilities. We will fight hard on your behalf to ensure that you are treated fairly and that you receive the outcome that you deserve in a timely manner. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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