Court Explains Recoupment in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Cases

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.

Recoupment Orders in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Cases

The main issue on appeal was whether the second order by the administrative judge constituted an order of recoupment. The court concluded that it did not, as there was no specific recoupment order issued by the DIA, and the second order only adjusted the benefits without explicitly ordering recoupment. The court emphasized that the recoupment of excess payments is discretionary and requires the DIA to issue findings of fact, which did not happen in this case.

The court explained that the employer had two options to recoup excess payments: filing a complaint with the DIA or bringing a recoupment action in the Superior Court. However, the employer did not pursue either of these avenues. Consequently, the court reversed the judgment and ruled in favor of the employee.

Meet with a Seasoned Massachusetts Attorney

People hurt while working may be able to recover benefits for the cost of their medical care as well as income benefits. If you were injured in a work accident, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to assess what benefits you may be able to recover. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who is proficient at helping injured workers protect their interests, and if you hire him, he will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Meehan to schedule a conference by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.