Massachusetts Court Discusses Demonstrating an Injury is Work-Related

Pursuant to Massachusetts law, employers have an obligation to pay workers’ compensation benefits to employees who sustain injuries while working. Only work-related injuries are compensable, though, and if an employer can establish that outside factors caused an employee’s harm, they can avoid paying benefits. As shown in a recent Massachusetts ruling, though, the employer must offer substantial and compelling evidence to prevail. If you were hurt while working, it is sensible to talk to a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation attorney regarding what benefits you may be owed.

History of the Case

It is reported that the claimant asserted suffering from intense lower back pain radiating down his left leg, rendering him totally and permanently disabled. He alleged he became disabled while working for the employer, a ship manufacturing facility, and filed a workers’ compensation claim. The employer contested the claim, arguing that the claimant’s disability was not work-related.

Allegedly, after a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) initially denied the claimant’s claim, finding that the employer had rebutted the statutory presumption of work-relatedness. However, on appeal, the Benefits Review Board vacated the ALJ’s decision, holding that the employer’s evidence was insufficient to rebut the presumption. The case was remanded, and the ALJ subsequently awarded the claimant disability benefits. The employer appealed again, challenging the Board’s decision.

Demonstrating a Connection Between an Injury and Work Conditions

On appeal, the court noted that under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), claimants had the burden of proving the causal connection between their injury and employment activities. The Act provided a presumption of work-relatedness, though, which shifted the burden to the employer to produce substantial evidence rebutting the presumption.

In the subject case, the employer argued that it had rebutted the presumption by presenting evidence that the claimant’s disability was primarily due to factors unrelated to his employment, such as his age and weight. The court found, however, that the employer’s evidence did not adequately address the connection between the claimant’s disabling pain and his working conditions at the company.

While the employer’s medical experts discussed the claimant’s underlying osteoarthritis, they failed to sufficiently address whether the claimant’s work activities exacerbated his symptoms or caused his pain to become symptomatic. The court ultimately concluded that the employer had not met its burden of producing substantial evidence to rebut the presumption of work-relatedness. Therefore, the court found the Board’s decision to vacate the ALJ’s ruling was legally justified and affirmed the award of disability benefits to the claimant, denying the employer’s petition for review.

Discuss Your Case with a Capable Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

People hurt while working have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits, but employers will often dispute the work-related nature of an injury to avoid paying claims. If you were injured on the job, it is smart to discuss your options with an attorney. Attorney James K. Meehan is a capable Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who can inform you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best legal result possible in your case. You can reach Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or through our convenient online contact form to arrange a confidential conference.