When an injury occurs in the workplace, financial concerns of how to pay for the medical bills and daily expenses quickly appear. When an injury takes an employee away from work for an extended period of time, maximizing the amount of workers’ compensation is in the victim’s and victim’s family’s best interest. A pair of recent appellate cases, Joseph F. Driscoll’s Case (14-P-776) and Driscoll v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (14-P-420) analyzed whether a city employee’s injury was considered ongoing, and whether or not he was entitled to accidental retirement benefits.
The injured employee hurt his back when he jumped into a garbage truck while working for the city’s highway department. He sought benefits from his employer, which was self-insured, and was paid weekly incapacity benefits for two months immediately following the injury. The injured employee also sought ongoing workers’ compensation benefits and accidental retirement benefits. The ongoing workers’ compensation benefits were initially denied by the self-insurer and the Dept. of Industrial Accidents (DIA). The ALJ at the DIA did grant temporary total incapacitation benefits, extending from the date of the accident to approximately nine months afterward. The Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (CRAB) and the Division of Law Appeals (DALA) both denied the injured employee’s request for accidental disability retirement benefits. The injured employee, seeking to maximize the benefits available, appealed both decisions.
The appeals court affirmed the DIA’s determination that the injury was finite instead of ongoing. In this decision, the court found that there was no error in the evidence that would necessitate overturning the decision. The injured employee protested the decision by the ALJ to credit some medical opinions and ignore others. The appellate court stated that the ALJ has the authority to determine the credibility of the witnesses. The court looked at the evidence available to the ALJ in which the injured person’s varying reports of his injury after the accident supported the opinion of one doctor over the other, and it felt this supported the lower adjudicating body’s ruling.
In the other matter, the appeals court also affirmed the denial of benefits. The court looked to the independent medical examiner’s (IME) opinion, which determined that the employee had a soft-tissue injury consistent with back strain and that he was able to go to work. The injured employee turned down the offer of light duty but performed some work a few years later until another back injury ended his work with a private contractor. A medical panel determined that he was totally disabled but that this was caused by the second accident. A second review by a different panel was split but ultimately concluded that the second accident caused the disability. A third review by a medical panel determined that the injured employee was not disabled at all and able to return to full-duty employment. Based on this third review, the initial board denied benefits. Both the CRAB and DALA affirmed. The court of appeals also affirmed the denial of benefits, agreeing that the evidence supported the prior decisions.
The Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Karsner & Meehan have the expertise you need to pursue all avenues of legal relief. Our attorneys understand the financial challenges you and your family face, and we will work tirelessly to maximize the damages you deserve. Call our office today at 508.822.6600.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Supreme Court Keeps Premises Liability Case Law Favorable for Injured Individuals, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, May 26, 2015
The Path to Damages after a Massachusetts Car Accident Can be a Complex, Winding One, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, May 22, 2015