Massachusetts Court Discusses Evidence In Workers’ Compensation Claims

Employees hurt while they are working can typically recover workers’ compensation benefits for their harm. Only injuries attributable to a workplace accident or conditions are compensable, though, and if a worker fails to establish the link between a work incident and their losses, they will most likely be denied benefits. Recently, a Massachusetts court contemplated what evidence is needed to establish the requisite causal connection in a case in which it ultimately affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s claim for benefits for psychological harm. If you were injured while working, you could be owed benefits, and you should meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to assess your options.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was hit in the head with a magnet when she was leaving her employer’s offices. She subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim, seeking benefits for psychological and physical injuries that she attributed to the incident. An administrative judge of the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) determined that the plaintiff was entitled to benefits for her physical harm but that she should not be awarded benefits for her psychological harm.

It is reported that the basis for the judge’s decision was that the plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between the accident and her psychological injuries. The plaintiff appealed, and the DIA review board denied her appeal. She then appealed to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

Evidence Needed to Establish a Connection Between a Work Incident and an Injury

On appeal, the court affirmed the DIA ruling, rejecting the plaintiff’s assertion that the administrative judge mischaracterized medical opinions. The court explained that credibility assessments, findings of fact, and assessments of the weight to be given to evidence are the sole function of the administrative judge. As such, an administrative judge can reject all or some of an expert’s testimony or accept the medical testimony of one expert over another.

In the subject case, the court found that the facts of the case provided the necessary support for the administrative judge to adopt the insurance company’s medical expert’s opinion that the plaintiff’s psychological injuries were not related to the accident.

Further, the court explained that the plaintiff, as the employee, bore the burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, each element of her claim for benefits, including the connection between her harm and a workplace event. As such, the expert medical opinion supporting this assertion must be expressed in terms of probability. As the plaintiff failed to produce such a report, she failed to establish causation, and the court upheld the administrative judge’s decision.

Meet with a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

Employees seeking workers’ compensation benefits bear the burden of proving their harm is work-related, and if they cannot, their claim may be denied. If you were injured at work, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you of your options for seeking a just outcome. You can contact Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or via the form online to set up a meeting.