Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Benefits in Claimed Psychiatric Injury Case Based on Lack of Medical Evidence

As dedicated Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers, we have seen a wide variety of work-related injuries. Many individuals mistakenly believe that only physical injuries are compensable under this system. In reality, there are many psychiatric injuries that are eligible for benefits. A recent Massachusetts’ appellate court opinion discussed one such claim.

There were several hearings related to the man’s claim of psychiatric injury that stemmed from his time working as a maintenance mechanic aide. He worked for a company that maintained apartments, and his employer tasked him with enforcing a non-smoking policy. According to the man, he was subject of substantial harassment from the tenants.

The first hearing concluded in a determination that he was disabled due to anxiety resulting from his job, but that he was not disabled from working for other employers in a similar capacity. His initial claim for benefits was therefore denied. The man appealed and the reviewing board affirmed the decision, but an appellate court reversed, finding that the man had suffered a period of total disability and that he was entitled to full benefits until he found a suitable position for another employer.

In a subsequent hearing to determine the period of disability, the judge found that the man suffered continuing issues that were not the result of his disability and that his reasons for staying out of work were not compensable. The man appealed, and the reviewing board again affirmed the decision, finding that the man failed to provide medical evidence showing why he could not work at another job. The employee appealed and the appellate court upheld the decision.

In the interim, the man filed another claim for benefits and was awarded section 35 benefits based on his earning capacity. The award was affirmed on appeal. The man filed another claim for benefits that was denied based on a finding that the man was not prevented from working as a result of his injury, but rather due to many “non-work related issues that could not be considered activities of daily living.” The employee appealed.

On review, the appellate court upheld the denial of benefits, finding that substantial evidence in the record supported the judge’s finding. Specifically, the man had been diagnosed with anxiety, prescribed anti-depressant medications, and failed at starting his own business as a handyman. The worker also experienced a separation from his wife and was in the process of completing the divorce at the time he filed the second claim for benefits. One of this children suffered from autism, putting additional strain and demands on his role as a parent. The record also showed that his personal hygiene fell by the wayside and that he began drinking during the day, smoking heavily, and playing video games for hours on end. Noting that the burden is on the injured claimant to show that a psychological injury stemmed from a workplace incident, the court affirmed the decision.

If you were injured at work in either a physical or psychological manner, you can seek benefits through the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system. Whether you are entitled to benefits and the duration of the payments depends on many factors, which is why consulting with our seasoned legal team can make a huge difference in your claim. To schedule your free consultation call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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