Workers' CompensationMassachusetts Appellate Court Remands Appeal Upon Finding that the Lower Court Improperly Calculated Injured Worker’s Earning Capacity

October 5, 20180

There are many phases of a workers’ compensation claim, and the outcome or decision made at each phase can have a substantial impact on your ability to recover benefits. Perhaps one of the most essential steps is determining the date on which the injury took place or accrued and the extent of the injury. The Massachusetts workers’ compensation legal professionals at the Law Office of Michael O. Smith proudly provide workers with the responsive and dedicated legal counsel they need to ensure that they receive the maximum amount of compensation that they need and deserve.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeal recently considered whether a lower court properly determined an injured plumber’s work capacity following an on-the-job injury. In 2004, the worker suffered a neck injury while sleeping resulting in surgery. Roughly four or five years later, the worker began working for a plumbing company. He reported discomfort and tightness in his neck after operating a hammer drill in 2013. The man received medical treatment for this injury and the employer paid temporary total incapacity benefits until April 2014.

The judge assigned to the claim ordered the employer to resume paying benefits on a continuous basis. Both parties appealed and the employee modified his claim for benefits to seek a different category of payments. As part of the appeal, the worker was required to undergo a medical examination with an independent medical examiner. The employer provided additional medical documentation following its conclusion that the orthopedic surgeon who treated the worker did not explain the connection between the man’s 2004 neck injury and the hammer drill injury. After reviewing all evidence, the court concluded that the worker sustained a work-related injury and that it was the major but not necessarily the primary cause of his need for medical assistance. He awarded benefits to the employee and the employer appealed.

On review, the insurer asserted that the judge made a reversible mistake in concluding that the work injury was a substantial factor of the man’s need for medical treatment. The insurer pointed to the judge’s adoption of a particular medical opinion finding that the employee suffered a herniated disc while operating the hammer drill. The insurer also disputed the report’s alleged failure to consider the prior neck surgery in its determination of causation.

The appellate court reviewed the insurer’s allegations but found that the judge made a reversible error when determining that the employee could only work 15 hours per week. This conclusion was not supported by medical evidence and the record showed that the judge did not complete an appropriate incapacity analysis. According to Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, a conclusion regarding earning capacity requires an explanation and supporting factual evidence regarding any of the worker’s physical limitations. Other factors that must be considered include the worker’s education, age, and the existing market for someone with the same set of skills. As a result of this finding, the appellate court remanded the claim for additional determinations and required the employer to continue paying benefits to the employee.

If you suffered a work-related injury, it can be difficult to know the best way to preserve your rights and to obtain the compensation that you deserve. Our seasoned Boston workers’ compensation lawyers have handled a wide variety of work injuries, ranging from straightforward matters to complex claims. We provide a free consultation to help you learn more about our team and how we can help you. Contact us today at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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