Massachusetts Court Concludes Lower Court Erred in Relying on Surveillance Video to Determine that an Injured Worker’s Disability Resolved

Many different factors go into determining whether an injured worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, such as determining whether the injury is causally related to his or her job duties, the average weekly wage that he or she earned and whether the injuries prohibit the employee from performing his or her usual job duties. As seasoned Massachusetts work injury lawyers, we are standing by to assist you with ensuring that you receive the full amount of benefits that you deserve.

A recent claim discusses many of these key issues, including causation and average weekly wage calculations. The man hurt himself while lifting objects at working, experiencing a sharp pain in his back. Testimony at a hearing revealed that he was paid through many different forms, including personal checks, cash, and corporate checks. The judge determined that his average weekly wage was $800.00.  The judge also concluded that the man had received unemployment compensation.

The man underwent a medical examination with an independent medical examiner. This doctor determined that the employee could return to full-time employment with some restrictions and that he had a pre-existing condition that was made worse due to the work injury. The doctor estimated that the restrictions would no longer be necessary after March 2011. The judge also considered video surveillance of the employee and based on these videos the judge concluded that the worker was no longer experiencing a work-related disability as of September 2011.

The employe appealed, alleging that the judge should have applied a prevailing wage to the determination of his average weekly benefits. According to Massachusetts law, if someone is employed on a public works project, he or she must receive the prevailing wage regardless of who his or her employer is. The appellate court rejected this argument finding that the man failed to provide any evidence showing that the job on which he was working at the time of the accident was a certified public works job, or that any other jobs on which he worked required a prevailing wage.

Next, the man argued that the judge made a mistake in determining that he was no longer experiencing a work-related injury from September 2011 onward and that the surveillance video should not have been relied on in determining causation. The appellate court agreed with the employee on this point the judge made a mistake in determining that his work injury ceased as of September 2011 based on the video. One of the medical reports submitted in evidence stated that as of March 2011, his work injury was still a major cause of his disability. There were no other medical opinions indicating that the work injury had ceased. As a result, the judge’s reliance on the video to conclude that the work-related injury had resolved constituted the judge making an impermissible medical finding.

If you were hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and medical expenses reimbursements. At Pulgini & Norton, we know how stressful this situation can be for you and your family. Our compassionate and experienced team offers a free consultation to help you learn more about the claims system and how we can help you. Call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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