Massachusetts Court Discusses Evidence that Harm is Work-Related

The Massachusetts workers’ compensation Act (the Act) grants employees the right to recover benefits for work injuries. In order to recover such benefits, though, they must prove that their harm is work-related. In other words, injuries caused by other factors are not compensable, as discussed in a recent Massachusetts case. If you were hurt while at work, it is in your best interest to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your options.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked for the defendant for thirty-five years as a truck driver. He suffered two knee injuries and a blood clot in his lower left leg during his employment. Prior to these injuries, he already had progressive degenerative arthritis in both knees. An independent medical examiner conducted an examination and concluded that there was a causal connection between the work-related incidents and the employee’s diagnoses. The IME’s report stated that the work-related injuries, combined with the preexisting arthritis, caused the employee’s complaints, disability, and need for treatment.

It is reported that the plaintiff’s doctor recommended knee replacements, and he sought medical benefits from the defendant to cover the cost. The defendant raised a defense based on the “combination injury” provision of the Act due to the employee’s preexisting arthritis. The administrative judge determined that the defendant had met its burden of production on this issue, and it was up to the employee to prove that the arthritis was caused by a compensable injury or disease or that the work-related injuries were a major cause of his disability or need for treatment. The judge ultimately denied the plaintiff’s claims because the IME could not state with reasonable certainty that the presence of arthritis was caused by his work injuries. The board affirmed the denial, and the employee appealed.

Demonstrating Harm is Work-Related

After examining the available evidence, the court agreed with the board’s decision that there was no specific opinion evidence presented to the administrative judge regarding the adequacy and reasonableness of the bilateral knee replacements as a treatment for the employee’s work-related injuries.

Although the employee had received recommendations from several treating physicians for knee replacements, there was no direct link established between these surgeries and the need to address work-related injuries. In sum, the court found that the employee failed to meet the burden of proving all essential elements of his case, and the board was not obligated to grant him another opportunity to do so. As such, it affirmed the board’s decision.

Speak to a Seasoned Massachusetts Attorney

In order to recover workers’ compensation damages, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the harm they suffered is directly related to their work, such as work-related injuries or illnesses. If you were injured at work it is crucial to speak to an attorney for guidance on how you can protect your rights. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who is adept at helping injured employees recover benefits, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Meehan to set up a conference by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.