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Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Permanent Disability Benefits in Hearing Loss Work Injury Claim

Work accidents can result in a wide variety of injuries. Some of these injuries heal over time, while others result in permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss. If you have been injured on the job, and you are facing a permanent or catastrophic disability, it is essential that you consult a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to help you ensure that you receive the full amount of benefits and compensation that you deserve. At Pulgini & Norton, we pride ourselves on assisting injured workers suffering from a wide variety of conditions.

In a recent workers’ compensation appeals decision, the injured worker and the employer appealed a decision that awarded the worker permanent hearing loss benefits and medical benefits. The employee worked as a laborer for the same employer for roughly 30 years. During two decades of that time, the employee worked in subway tunnels, where the work environment routinely involved screeching and deafening noises. Although these noises were incredibly harsh, the employer prohibited employees from wearing hearing protection due to safety precautions.

The worker began suffering hearing loss during 2004 and continued to experience hearing issues for 12 years. The worker retired in December 2012. After retirement, the worker sought employment elsewhere but had difficulties. He claimed that his hearing loss made him an undesirable candidate because employers saw it as a safety issue. The worker eventually obtained a temporary custodial position with the U.S. Postal Service.

The worker underwent a medical examination by an impartial doctor, who produced a report containing his findings. The doctor concluded that the worker suffered bilateral noise-induced hearing loss as a result of his many years of exposure to substantial noise in the subway tunnels. The judge assigned to the employee’s benefits claim adopted this finding, as well as the worker’s testimony that he was precluded from wearing hearing protection. The judge then awarded permanent loss of function benefits for the employee’s permanent hearing loss. The judge denied the employee’s claim for additional benefits, including temporary total incapacity benefits and partial incapacity benefits, based on a finding that the employee demonstrated an ability to find unrestricted work in another full-time capacity that did not involve exposure to loud noises.

The employee appealed the denial of these additional benefits. On review, the appellate court agreed with the employee, finding that the judge did not perform a sufficient review of the employee’s earning capacity. More specifically, the judge improperly relied on the employee’s temporary position with the postal service in concluding that the employee was able to find sufficient work. The appellate court noted that the employee was undisputedly unable to return to his prior position and that it was unclear whether he would be able to find comparable work providing a similar wage. Accordingly, the court vacated the lower judge’s denial of the worker’s additional benefit claims and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

If you are suffering from a work-related injury and believe that you may be entitled to benefits, the diligent Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers at Pulgini & Norton are ready to assist you. We have seen just how devastating a work-related injury can be for the victim and his or her family, which means we know how much this claim matters to you and your future. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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