Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Benefits to Nurse in Back Injury Claim

Workers’ compensation cases involve many different steps and determinations, including an analysis of whether you have reached maximum medical improvement and whether you are able to pursue meaningful work in another position either in the same field or another field. As dedicated Boston work accident lawyers, we have handled many claims on behalf of injured workers and helped them to secure the outcomes that they deserve.

In a recent case, the injured worker was a nurse who provided direct patient care. She suffered an injury to her lower back in 2016 when she was adjusting a patient, resulting in immediate lower back pain that radiated to her right leg. She went to the emergency room at the end of her shift. Ultimately, she did not reach a point of recovery that allowed her to return to her regular job duties, but she did return to work in a clerical capacity with reduced hours. This still caused her to experience pain, however, and required her to take more time from work.

The woman filed a claim seeking temporary total incapacity benefits, which was eventually granted. The employer paid the employee roughly $937.69 in benefits per week based on an average weekly wage of $1,622.82. The judge also required the employer to pay benefits based on the employee’s actual wages for a specific period of time. The insurer appealed and the worker underwent an impartial medical examination, culminating in the only medical report submitted in evidence. According to the report, the worker reached her maximum medical improvement and continued to experience lower back pain limiting her physical abilities.

At the appeal hearing, the employee provided testimony about her pain and limitations as well as her efforts to find work. The judge found this testimony credible and adopted the findings of the medical report. The insurer appealed again, arguing that the judge earned in assessing the worker’s earning capacity and disability findings. The appellate court rejected these arguments, first finding that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the judge’s finding that the employee was disabled for all periods listed in her claim for benefits. Based on the conclusions in the medical report, specifically finding that she had reached maximum medical improvement, it was reasonable for the judge to conclude that she was disabled at the specified time and that she was still experiencing serious pain.

The appellate court did agree with the insurer’s challenge to the employee’s work capacity analysis, finding that it was unclear whether the judge considered the worker’s ability to find meaningful work in the open labor market outside of nursing jobs. The worker only testified about her efforts to find another position in the nursing field. Based on this, the appellate court recommitted the case to the lower court for additional findings on the worker’s ability to seek employment elsewhere. Judges are required to explain the reason for their decisions on the record and to identify the facts in evidence upon which they relied in reaching the conclusion stated in the order.

If you were hurt at work, it is important that you explore your right to workers’ compensation benefits before the time to seek benefits expires. Our compassionate and responsive team of Boston work injury lawyers are prepared to answer your questions and to help you understand whether you have a viable claim for benefits and medical expenses reimbursements. To schedule a free consultation with our team, please call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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