Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Improper Calculation of Injured Art Teacher’s Earning Capacity Following Serious Injury

There are many important aspects of a workers’ compensation claim, including a determination of your average earning capacity and the wages that you might be able to earn following your work-related injury. There are clear rules regarding how these figures must be calculated, but parties are allowed to offer up various evidence to help guide the judge in making the calculation. A seasoned Boston workers’ compensation lawyer can help you ensure that the earning capacity portion of your claim is calculated correctly and fairly.

In a recent case, an employee who worked as a full-time educator for a public school suffered a strain in her right shoulder when she was working in her classroom. She reported that the pain continued to get worse over time until she suffered a sharp pain while using a paper cutting machine. She continued to work until the date that she retired in 2010, but she did not report the injury until later that year.

The employee sought workers’ compensation benefits. During the process, an issue arose regarding her earning capacity, with the employee asserting that the judge’s earning capacity conclusion was too high and that there was not enough evidence to support a calculation concluding that her earning capacity was beyond $500.

The appellate court agreed with this conclusion, finding that the judge based his earning capacity calculation on a report from one of the employee’s treating physicians and the employee’s testimony. Reviewing the reports, the court concluded that the doctor had not made any determinations about a change in the employee’s work capacity and that throughout his four years of providing treatment, the worker continued to experience persistent pain and a limited range of motion.

The judge also relied on a comment from the employee that her pain had improved over time, but the appellate court noted that there was no evidence in the record to support any improvement in her condition. Instead, the medical records show that the employee continued to experience consistent ongoing right shoulder pain and a limited range of motion. It was clear that her pain had not gone away and that her options for earning income were extremely limited. Based on this, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s increase of the worker’s earning capacity.

The appellate court also upheld the lower court’s decision to disregard testimony from the insurance company alleging that the use of a paper cutter was too routine and common to constitute a work-related activity. The court noted that the worker used a paper cutter almost every day and that she had experienced two other incidences involving the paper cutter and her injury.

If you were hurt at work, it is critical for you to know whether you are entitled to compensation. These benefits are designed to provide you with the support that you need while you heal, cope with your potentially permanent disability, and to enable you to seek the medical treatment that you deserve. At at Pulgini & Norton, our diligent team of Boston workers’ compensation lawyers offer a free consultation to discuss your situation. Call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

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