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Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Benefits to Lineman who Contracted Lyme Disease on the Job

There are many different ways in which you can become injured at work. Some are obvious, while others are less common. As seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers, we are prepared to handle unique and complex work injury cases and to ensure that you receive an appropriate outcome.

In a recent claim, a man worked as a lineman for various companies. This involved working outside on power transmission equipment. The man was exposed to tick bites as a result and was eventually determined to have contracted Lyme disease. According to his medical records, the man began experiencing acute joint pain, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, and facial pressure. He worked until 2011, when he left due to the severity of his illness. He remained out of work until 2013, when he was determined to have no acute, active, or chronic diseases, and no further treatment was required.

In the workers’ compensation claim, an issue arose regarding the timing of when the worker was bitten by the ticks that caused him to contract Lyme disease. The man had worked for a variety of companies throughout the applicable time period, and the employers wanted to verify which employer was technically employing the worker at the time that he was infected. The judge reviewed the medical evidence and adopted the opinion of the independent medical examiner to find that the man was working for the first company involved when he was bitten. The judge ordered this employer to pay benefits, and the employer appealed.

On appeal, the employer argued that the medical opinions upon which the judge relied were not legally supportive of his decision. More specifically, it argued that there was only a possible diagnosis of Lyme disease during the period in question when the man was employed by the company. The appellate court rejected this argument, relying on excerpts from the doctor’s medical opinion that described Lyme disease as being difficult to diagnose in some instances. The disease can show symptoms for several years before an official and definitive diagnosis can be made. The doctor concluded that the infecting tick bite likely occurred in July 2006 with symptoms manifesting over the next five years, and with an official diagnosis in 2011.

The court also noted that tests for Lyme disease are unreliable and that a negative test result in the employee’s record was not sufficient to question the timing of the infecting bite. Furthermore, the judge did not rely entirely on the negative test result to conclude that the man was working for the first company at the time he was infected.

If you were injured on the job, it is critical that you seek competent legal assistance as soon as possible to ensure that you receive the full amount of compensation and benefits that you deserve. Our compassionate and responsive team of Boston work injury lawyers is standing by to help you understand your legal rights and how to maximize your recovery. We offer a free consultation, so contact us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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