Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Finding of Permanent and Total Disability in Severe Work Injury Case

In some cases, work injuries are temporary and heal with proper treatment and rest. In other situations, the work-related injury can be so severe that it leads to permanent disabilities and injuries. The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide you with benefits to replace your lost wages while you heal and reimbursement for medical expenses. But when the injury is severe and ongoing, the system can become complex and the claim can go on for an extended period of time. At Pulgini & Norton, we proudly handle workers’ compensation cases involving severe injuries and disabilities.

In one Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim, the employee reportedly suffered traumatic injuries while working at a psychiatric department in a state hospital. A patient attacked the worker, kicking him repeatedly until he lost consciousness. As a result of the attack, he required ongoing medical treatment for a right leg fracture, deep vein thrombosis, chronic pain, and instability. The worker filed a claim for benefits and the judge made an award. In the award, the court found a number of pre-existing conditions that were not implicated in the accident such as the worker’s pre-existing degenerative arthritis of the spine. The judge concluded that these pre-existing conditions did not extend the need for treatment or the length of the employee’s incapacity.

The worker filed a claim for additional benefits. At the hearing, the judge concluded based on the evidence presented that the worker was so severely injured that he could barely care for himself and get around his home. Relying on an opinion from an independent medical examiner, the judge concluded that the worker was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the attack. The judge stated that the findings did not disturb the prior finding that the employee’s pre-existing conditions did not conflate with the attack.

The insurer appealed, arguing that the judge should not have adopted the independent medical examiner’s report to find that the employee was permanently and totally disabled because the doctor who wrote the report relied in part on the worker’s pre-existing conditions to reach that conclusion. The appellate court ultimately rejected this argument noting that a judge can adopt all or part of an independent medical examiner’s report and that the judge specifically noted that prior findings regarding pre-existing injuries were not disturbed as a result of the finding. The judge specifically noted that the evidence did not show any changes in the employee’s post-accident condition regarding his pre-existing conditions.

The appellate court also rejected the insurer’s contention that the lower court erred in rejecting its vocational expert’s testimony about jobs that were suitable for the employee. The appellate court stated that the judge relied on credible testimony from the witness about his injuries and the unlikelihood that he can return to work.

If you suffered severe injuries at work, you may be entitled to benefits and medical expenses reimbursement. Let our seasoned team of Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers guide you through the process while ensuring that your rights are protected and enforced properly at each stage of the claims process. To set up a free consultation call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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