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Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefits After Occupational Therapy Accident

Many people know that work-related injuries can cause serious physical pain and suffering. In many instances, however, an injury can also lead to psychiatric injuries, especially if the injury will prevent the employee from returning to work or if it will leave them with a permanent disability that severely limits their daily activities. As Boston workers’ compensation attorneys, we are prepared to help you fight for the outcome that you deserve after sustaining an injury on the job.

In a recent claim,  the injured worker was a developmental aide for her employer, which included engaging with developmentally disabled clients to assist them with using the bathroom. The job was physically demanding. In 2011, she suffered two accidents on the job, starting with a fall while assisting a patient that resulted in injuries to her back, left knee, shoulder, and neck. The second injury affected her left knee. The employee received immediate benefits from her employer’s insurance carrier and later filed a claim for injury-related benefits as well as psychiatric benefits.

After the initial hearing, the judge concluded that the employee was unable to lift objects and stand for a long period of time and that her mobility was otherwise very low due to her injuries. He also concluded that her psychiatric injury was a result of the serious limitations that she now faced in her daily life. She was even hospitalized as a result of suicidal thoughts for five days. The judge concluded that she was totally disabled but did not find her permanently disabled, noting that one doctor indicated that psychotherapy and pain management medications could be promising.

In 2017, the worker filed a new claim for benefits, seeking compensation for the permanent loss of use of her lumbar and thoracic extremities. The issue of whether her psychiatric disability was permanent was at issue during this proceeding. An examining doctor testified that the worker was suffering from a major depressive disorder and somatic pain disorder and that there was a connection between the injuries she suffered at work and her psychiatric disability. The severity of the injury affected her ability to feel good about herself and prevented her from engaging in her job, which she loved. He also testified that her depression affected her ability to concentrate, which would make it impossible for her to find new employment. Ultimately, the judge concluded that as a result of her medical conditions and psychiatric conditions, the worker was permanently and totally incapacitated from April 2017 onward.

The insurer appealed, and the reviewing court affirmed the lower court’s findings, based on substantial evidence in the record showing that the worker faced a very different day-to-day situation following the accident and that her physical and psychiatric disabilities left her with substantial limitations. The examining physician reports noted that she suffered from a major depressive disorder even several years after the injuries and that it interfered with her ability to find a job. Her ability to engage in social activities was also limited, and despite some indications that she was doing better, she still remained permanently and totally incapacitated as a result of the accident.

If you were hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. It is essential for you to speak to a seasoned work injury lawyer who can help you ensure that you are treated fairly and that you receive the treatment and compensation that you deserve. Our compassionate team of legal professionals has handled a wide variety of claims, including claims involving catastrophic injuries. To set up your free consultation, call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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