Massachusetts Reviewing Board Affirms Decision Awarding Injured Employee Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In an appeal filed by the employer’s insurer, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board affirmed an administrative judge’s award of workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to §§ 13, 30, 34, and 34A to an employee injured while working on the job.

On August 31, 2011, the employee sustained a work-related disc herniation. At the time of the injury, the employee was 63 years old and had worked in physically demanding occupations for most of his life. The employer’s insurer sought a modification of the employee’s § 34 benefits, while the employee sought § 34A benefits from November 1, 2012 forward. The insurer argued defenses of causation and extent of disability.

The employee was examined by an impartial medical examiner pursuant to § 11A, and the report was entered into evidence at the hearing. The administrative judge also allowed the parties to submit additional medical evidence from different doctors in support of their claims. At the hearing, the employee testified that prior to his injury he could lift up to 200 pounds, while currently he avoids lifting any more than 10 pounds. The employee also testified that the back pain resulting from his injury disturbed his sleep.

In reaching her decision, the administrative judge adopted most of the opinion of the impartial medical examiner. With respect to the extent of the employee’s disability, she adopted the opinion of the employee’s doctor that he was totally disabled and unable to do any work. In so doing, the administrative judge found that there was a direct causal relationship between the employee’s work injury and his lumbar disc herniation, and that the employee’s injury was the cause of his disability and need for medical treatment. The administrative judge also found that the employee lacked the capacity to earn wages as a result of his workplace injury, based on testimony from a vocational rehabilitation expert.

On appeal, the Reviewing Board decided two issues raised by the employer’s insurer. First, the insurer argued that the administrative judge erred by adopting the opinion of the employee’s doctor. The Reviewing Board disagreed, finding that the administrative judge had discretion to adopt one physician’s opinion on disability over another’s. Second, the insurer contended that the administrative judge erred by rejecting the independent medical examiner’s opinion on the extent of the employee’s disability, while adopting the rest of the opinion. The Reviewing Board disagreed, again citing the administrative judge’s freedom to adopt any or all parts of the independent medical examiner’s opinion. As a result, the Reviewing Board affirmed the decision finding in favor of the employee and awarded attorney’s fees to the employee.

If you have been hurt in a workplace accident, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries, including payments for medical expenses and lost wages. At Pulgini & Norton, our experienced attorneys provide legal representation to injured clients pursuing workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts. To discuss your claim with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact our office by phone at (781) 843-2200 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Appeals Court Ruling Prohibits Workers’ Compensation Insurers from Bypassing Department of Industrial Accidents in Coverage Disputes, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published September 16, 2015

Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds for Worker Claiming Partial Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published August 12, 2015

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