Workers' CompensationMassachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Benefit Award in Multiple Injury Claim based on Lower Court’s Failure to Use the Right Causation Standard

August 16, 20190

Construction workers face some of the highest rates of work-related injuries because of the heavy toll that their job duties take on their bodies. In many cases, construction workers will experience a number of work-related injuries during their career. This can make future workers’ compensation claims more complicated because the insurer may argue that the new injury was related to a prior injury and is not entitled to benefit payments. Claims involving pre-existing injuries of any kind are in general more complex, which is why it is important to consult with a seasoned Boston workers’ compensation lawyer before proceeding with your claim. At the Law Office of Michael O. Smith, we will fight zealously to ensure that you are treated fairly.

In a recent claim, the injured worker suffered a series of work-related injuries during his long career in construction. One of the injuries was a back injury that resulted in him needing to take a year off of work. In 2014, the worker sought workers’ compensation benefits for the injury and temporary incapacity benefits and medical payments. he was moving 50-pound sandbags at the time the injury happened, which caused him to suffer immediate lower back pain and right shoulder pain. He did not go to work the following morning after the injury due to the intense pain. The worker and the insurer appealed the award of benefits for this injury.

An independent medical examiner examined the employee, which led to the parties resolving their disagreement about the benefits award. The worker had a variety of treatments to address his pain, but none of them worked. As a result, he sought additional benefits to address his ongoing and continued pain. Another impartial examination was conducted, and the judge determined that the worker experienced a work-related injury to his shoulder that was the major contributing cause to the lower back injury that he experienced.


The parties appealed again, and the reviewing court concluded that the lower court failed to use the right standard of analysis when determining whether a prior injury has been exacerbated by a new injury. The judge wrongly applied a “major cause” theory of evaluating whether a pre-existing injury is implicated in the new injury, which made the judge overlook important facts about the employee’s inability to work as a result of the injury to his lower back. The court vacated the award of benefits and remanded the case for further proceedings using an appropriate standard to evaluate the man’s prior injuries as they relate to his present injury.

If you suffered an injury while you were working, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and reimbursements for medical expenses associated with the injury. We know that you are probably overwhelmed with stress and frustrating during this difficult time, but we have seen firsthand how a benefits award can be life-changing for injured workers. We provide a free consultation to discuss your situation and whether we can assist you. To set up your appointment, call us now at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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