Massachusetts Court Discusses Causality in Workers’ Compensation Claims

While some workplace injuries cause immediate symptoms, others do not cause pain until well after the injury occurred. In such instances, it can be difficult to prove that the injury is compensable under the Workers Compensation Act. The key inquiry in cases involving enduring injuries is whether the harm in question is work-related. Recently, a Massachusetts court assessed what evidence is needed to establish a causal relationship between an industrial accident and a claimant’s harm in a matter in which it ultimately found in favor of the claimant. If you sustained injuries in the workplace, you could be owed benefits, and you should meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the claimant suffered an injury while working as a heavy equipment mechanic. The injury caused a stabbing pain in the claimant’s shoulders, neck, and upper back. He received a cortisone shot and underwent surgery for his right shoulder, but his pain continued. The claimant filed a workers’ compensation claim, which he ultimately settled. He continued to feel bilateral pain in his shoulders and filed a second claim for medical benefits.

Allegedly, a physician performed an IME on the claimant and found that his pain was secondary to his work injury, noting he did not report shoulder pain until one year after the injury occurred. Following a hearing, the administrative judge found that the claimant’s shoulder injury was causally related to the subject accident and ordered the employer’s insurer to pay all reasonable medical expenses associated with the injury. The insurer appealed, and the reviewing board reversed the administrative judge’s decision. The claimant then appealed.

Establishing Causality in Workers’ Compensation Claims

On appeal, the court reinstated the administrative judge’s decision. The court explained that when an administrative judge makes findings, they can give significant weight to credible statements made by the claimant and consider any relevant medical evidence. In other words, the administrative judge has the sole responsibility of making findings of fact, evaluating credibility, and deciding how much weight to give to the evidence. The court further noted that credibility determinations made by the administrative judge are final, and both the reviewing board and an appellate court should respect them.

In the subject case, the court found that the reviewing board incorrectly determined that the medical expert provided two contrary opinions; rather, when examined as a whole, the expert’s testimony lacked contradiction and supported the finding that the claimant’s harm was work-related. Thus, the court found that the administrative judge’s opinion had sound factual support and reinstated it.

Confer with a Seasoned Massachusetts Attorney

Workplace injuries can cause lasting harm, and in many cases, people that suffer such injuries can recover permanent disability benefits. If you were hurt at work, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney about your rights. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who can aid you in pursuing the maximum benefits recoverable under the law. You can reach Mr. Meehan to set up a meeting by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.