Massachusetts Court Discusses Permanent and Total Disabilities

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act, people injured while working can often recover benefits for their lost wages. Further, people who suffer permanent harm may be granted permanent disability benefits. In a recent Massachusetts dispute over workers’ compensation benefits, the court discussed what evidence is needed to establish a permanent and total disability. If you were hurt while working, you may be able to recover benefits, and you should confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney promptly.

History of the Case

It is reported that the claimant sustained a severe right elbow injury that ultimately led to him needing to use a prosthesis. An administrative law judge ruled the claimant was totally and permanently disabled, and the benefits review board affirmed the decision. The ALJ based its decision on the claimant’s testimony regarding the frequent slippage of the prosthesis, leading to sharp pain, which allegedly rendered him unemployable. However, the insurer contended that the claimant could still secure employment despite occasional discomfort from the prosthesis. Moreover, the claimant, despite his injury, pursued education and passed all his courses, indicating a level of functionality and adaptability.

Allegedly, during the trial, the claimant’s attending physician’s reports, along with those of another doctor chosen by the claimant, were submitted as exhibits. These reports provided insight into the claimant’s medical condition and the impact of the injury on his daily life. The ALJ’s decision heavily relied on the claimant’s testimony and medical reports, ultimately ruling in favor of total disability. The insurer disputed the ALJ’s determination that the claimant was totally and permanently disabled due to the injury.

Findings of Permanent and Total Disability

Upon review, the court scrutinized the ALJ’s findings regarding the frequency of elbow dislocations and the resulting pain. It raised doubts about the substantial support for the ALJ’s determination, especially considering the absence of explicit mentions of the frequency of the slippage in the medical reports. Despite the claimant’s testimony regarding occasional pain and difficulties in writing, the court noted the lack of substantial contradiction to the insurer’s expert opinion, which suggested the claimant could still find employment.

Furthermore, the court emphasized that the ALJ lacked expert qualifications to make findings off the record. Given the claimant’s relatively young age and his demonstrated ability to adapt and function despite the injury, the court found the ruling of total disability unsubstantiated. Thus, it set aside the ALJ’s decision on total disability. Lastly, the court remanded the case for consideration of partial disability.

Meet with a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

Workers’ compensation benefits provide financial support and medical care to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. If you were injured on the job, you should speak to an attorney regarding your options as soon as possible. Attorney James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help injured workers protect their interests, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or through our convenient online contact form to arrange a confidential meeting.