In Massachusetts, public employees who are unable to work due to injuries sustained on the job can often recover accidental disability retirement benefits. As with workers’ compensation claims, however, they must demonstrate they sustained a personal injury during the performance of work duties in order to be eligible for such benefits. Recently,  a Massachusetts court assessed whether a heart attack suffered an hour after a claimant was advised her job was being eliminated constituted a compensable injury, ultimately concluding that it did. If you suffered harm while working, you should meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to examine what benefits you may be owed.

The Facts of the Case

The claimant had worked as an administrative assistant in the Department of Public Works since 1975, and her responsibilities included various clerical tasks. On March 22, 2000, her supervisor informed her that her job would be eliminated effective July 1, 2000. She became distressed and left work early that day. A short while later, she experienced chest pain and was diagnosed with an acute myocardial infarction. She did not return to work and subsequently applied for accidental disability retirement benefits.

Multiple administrative and judicial proceedings followed, including evaluations by a medical panel and decisions by the Retirement Board of Salem and the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC). Ultimately, CRAB determined that the claimant’s heart attack was caused by the emotional stress of her job loss discussion and that she was disabled due to physical causes, making her eligible for retirement benefits. The Board appealed the determination. Continue reading →

People hurt at work may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employer, but in exchange for such benefits, they are precluded from seeking damages in tort for their harm. Whether they are eligible to seek workers’ compensation benefits or civil damages depends, in part, on whether they are employees or independent contractors. In a recent Massachusetts case, the court discussed what evidence is needed to establish a person is an employee as defined by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), in a case in which it ultimately affirmed the plaintiff’s employee status barred him from recovering damages in tort. If you sustained harm while working, it is in your best interest to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to determine what benefits you may be owed.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was injured while operating a forklift at the defendant employer’s warehouse where he worked. He filed a lawsuit against the defendant, the warehouse owner, and the forklift manufacturer, alleging negligence. Following discovery, the defendant employer moved for dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims via summary judgment on the grounds that they were immune from liability under the workers’ compensation law because the defendant was the plaintiff’s employer. The court granted the defendant’s motion. Four years later, the plaintiff appealed.

Employees vs. Independent Contractors in the Context of Workers’ Compensation Claims

On appeal, the court first looked at whether the matter was properly before it; it ultimately found that although the appeal was filed four years after the ruling was not barred or waived. Continue reading →

Generally, when public employees suffer injuries in a work incident that renders them unable to work, they can seek accidental disability retirement benefits. If their employer argues that the harm in question predated their accident, however, it may be challenging for them to recover benefits. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what evidence is needed to demonstrate harm is work-related rather than the result of a pre-existing condition. If you were hurt at work, it is wise to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your rights.

Case Background

It is alleged that the claimant, who worked for the city of Worcester, applied for accidental disability retirement benefits due to a psychiatric condition stemming from a traumatic brain injury sustained during a fall from a garbage truck. The medical reason for the application was attributed to depression that was caused by a head injury. A regional medical panel comprised of three doctors affirmed the claimant’s incapacity to perform job duties, the permanence of this incapacity, and its link to the injury. The panel’s narrative noted the worsening of the claimant’s condition following the head injury and diagnosed him with major depressive disorder and neurocognitive disorder due to traumatic brain injury.

Reportedly, though, the Worcester Retirement Board rejected the claimant’s application. The case was brought before a Division of Administrative Law Appeals magistrate, who, after considering medical reports and testimony from the claimant, concluded that he was eligible for accidental disability retirement benefits. Despite adopting most of the DALA magistrate’s findings, the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (CRAB) rejected the conclusion on medical causation and asserted that the claimant’s psychiatric conditions were continuous with his pre-existing conditions. The claimant appealed, and the court reversed CRAB’s decision. CRAB then filed an appeal. Continue reading →

Employees hurt on the job can often recover workers’ compensation benefits. In order to demonstrate benefits are warranted, they must, in part, show that they suffered a work-related injury, which can be challenging in cases in which the claimant had pre-existing injuries. In a recent Massachusetts ruling, a court explained how pre-existing injuries are handled in the context of workers’ compensation cases. If you were hurt in an accident at work, it is wise to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to determine what benefits you may be able to recover.

Factual Background

It is alleged that while cleaning up a worksite, the claimant experienced back tightness when he lifted buckets of waterproofing materials. Despite the discomfort, he completed his shift. The pain intensified over the next few days, leading him to seek treatment from a chiropractor, who continued treating the claimant until his return to work six months later. During this time, an MRI revealed disc herniations and degenerative changes.

It is reported that the claimant received treatment from a neurology office, where three physicians referred to prior back injuries and a diagnosis of pre-existing degenerative disc disease. The claimant filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, which ultimately went before an administrative judge. The judge awarded the claimant worker’s compensation benefits based on the chiropractor’s opinion, rejecting the insurer’s claim that the chiropractor’s treatments were unnecessary. The Industrial Accident Reviewing Board affirmed the decision, and the insurer appealed. Continue reading →

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides that employees hurt at work can recover benefits for their injuries. In exchange for such rights, however, they waive the right to pursue claims in tort against their employer pursuant to the exclusivity provision of the Act. As explained in a recent Massachusetts ruling, the exclusivity provision extends to bar wrongful death claims pursued by the estate of an employee killed while at work. If you lost a loved one in a workplace incident, it is smart to meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your options for seeking justice.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the decedent, a residential treatment counselor at the defendant’s mental health facility, was assaulted and killed by a resident while at work. After her death, the decedent’s estate filed a wrongful death action against the directors of the facility and other parties, claiming their conduct was reckless and negligent. The directors moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that they were immune from suit for injuries sustained by the decedent during her employment under the Act. The trial court agreed and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The decedent’s estate appealed.

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act as the Sole Remedy for Work-Related Deaths

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling, The court explained that the Act ensures that employees receive compensation for workplace injuries, regardless of fault, by making it the exclusive remedy for such injuries. The Act establishes a trade-off: employees give up their right to sue their employers for tort injuries in exchange for guaranteed compensation. This provides predictability for both employees and employers, with insured employers being protected from lawsuits while forfeiting defenses they might have had regarding fault. Continue reading →

Workers’ compensation benefits awards are typically calculated based on an employee’s average weekly wage at the time of their injury as well as their medical expenses. While such benefits awards are typically appropriate, in some cases, they may be inaccurate, and if an error results in an overpayment, an employer may be entitled to recoup the excess amounts paid to the employee. In a recent Massachusetts workers’ compensation case, a court explained what an employer must show to demonstrate it is entitled to recoupment. If you were injured at work, it is worthwhile to speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney regarding what benefits you may be owed.

History of the Case

It is reported that the employee, while working for the employer, suffered an injury to his left knee, resulting from a slip and fall accident while descending a ladder. The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim with the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA), which was contested by the employer. Subsequently, an administrative judge issued a conference order that required the employer to provide disability benefits for a specific period and then ongoing partial disability benefits.

Allegedly, both parties appealed this order, and a new order was issued by the same administrative judge after a second hearing. This new order reduced the amount and duration of the employee’s benefits. As a consequence of the second order, the employee had already received more benefits than he was entitled to under the conference order. The employer then initiated legal action against the employee, arguing that the new order was a recoupment order. The court ruled in favor of the employer and granted judgment on the pleadings. The employee subsequently appealed the decision. Continue reading →

Massachusetts’ Workers’ Compensation Act provides that people that suffer the loss of a loved one due to a work accident have the right to recover survivor benefits. As with employee claims for workers’ compensation benefits, survivors must demonstrate that the harm that led to their loved one’s death was work-related. Recently, a Massachusetts court examined the evidence needed to prove an injury arose due to work conditions in a case in which an insurer challenged a widow’s right to benefits. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to a work injury, it is wise to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your rights at your earliest opportunity.

History of the Case

It is reported that the decedent worked as a custodian at an elementary school in Woburn. He suffered a sudden cardiac death due to ventricular arrhythmia while operating a snow blower at work and died at the age of fifty-two. His widow subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim, and an administrative judge awarded her burial expenses and survivor benefits. The school’s insurer appealed the decision, which was affirmed by a reviewing board. The insurer then appealed to a Massachusetts state court.

Evidence Demonstrating a Death Is Work-Related

On appeal, the insurer argued that the judge improperly applied a statute that provides that when an employee is found dead at the workplace, it is presumed that the death is causally related to employment. The judge found that the decedent’s work activities were a major contributing cause of his sudden cardiac arrest and his death. The appellate court upheld the judge’s conclusion, stating that the insurer’s evidence failed to overcome the presumption afforded by the statute. The court reasoned that the decedent’s death, due to the severity of his preexisting coronary artery disease, could be triggered by any level of physical exertion. Continue reading →

Pursuant to Massachusetts law, people hurt while working can often recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employer. Such benefits are meant, in part, to compensate the employee for the loss of income they suffered due to their injuries; in other words, they represent lost wages. As such, if a person that received workers’ compensation benefits subsequently divorces, such benefits may be subject to division as marital property, as explained in a recent Massachusetts case. If you were hurt while on the job, you may be owed benefits, and it is smart to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer regarding your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband received a $240,000 workers’ compensation settlement for an injury during the marriage. The husband and his wife subsequently divorced. Some funds were distributed during the divorce proceedings, leaving $123,230 in escrow. The divorce judgment, dated March 30, 2018, incorporated the separation agreement and distributed $50,000 of the remaining settlement to the wife. The judge considered factors such as the husband’s health and employment status before the injury, the wife’s modest income, and her intention to buy out the husband’s share in the marital home. The husband appealed, arguing that his workers’ compensation settlement was not a divisible marital asset.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits in the Context of Divorce Actions

On appeal, the husband argued that workers’ compensation settlements shouldn’t be divisible marital assets under G. L. c. 208, § 34. The court disagreed, stating that the accident occurred during the marriage, and the settlement was received before the finalization of the divorce nisi. As a workers’ compensation claim is an “unliquidated claim for money damages,” it qualified as marital property and was subject to division in the divorce proceedings. Continue reading →

Under Massachusetts law, employers are required to provide employees that sustain injuries at work with workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, however, employers do not always uphold their obligations and will attempt to avoid paying benefits by arguing that an employee did not sustain significant harm. This was illustrated in a recent case in which an employer appealed a decision determining that an employee was permanently disabled. If you sustained an injury at work, it is advisable to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer regarding what benefits you might be owed.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the claimant sustained a knee injury while working as a security patrol officer in 2005. Over time, her knee condition deteriorated, and she underwent surgery in 2012. After returning to work, she injured her left knee in August 2012 and had not worked since then. The claimant received ongoing treatment from an orthopedic surgeon and pain specialist.

Reportedly, based on the plaintiff’s testimony, medical opinions from the claimant’s providers, and an impartial medical examiner, the administrative judge determined that the claimant was permanently and totally disabled due to her work-related injuries. The judge ordered the employer to pay the employee temporary and permanent workers’ compensation benefits. The reviewing board summarily affirmed the judge’s decision. The employer then appealed to the Massachusetts courts. Continue reading →

Many people who suffer injuries on the job are ultimately unable to return to work. In such instances, they may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits to make up for their lost wages. If they receive other benefits or compensation from their employer while they are on leave for their work-related disability, though, it may complicate the issue of when their accidental disability retirement occurred. This was illustrated in a recent Massachusetts case in which the court ultimately determined that six pay did not constitute compensation for the purpose of making such determinations. If you were hurt at work, you might be able to recover benefits, and you should meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you can.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in a recent case, a Massachusetts court determined that vacation or sick pay, when mean to supplement workers’ compensation payments, is not considered regular compensation as defined by the law. The case revolved around an employee that worked for a town’s Department of Public Works. He suffered job-related injuries and began receiving workers’ compensation benefits along with two hours per week of sick or vacation pay.

Allegedly, the town sought an involuntary retirement of the employee due to accidental disability, and the retirement board approved the application. The Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) determined that the employee’s retirement date was the last day he received regular compensation, which included the supplemental pay. The employee appealed, but the decision was affirmed. He then appealed again. Continue reading →