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Massachusetts Court of Appeals Holds Only One Insurer is Liable for Workers’ Compensation Benefits for a Disability Caused by Multiple Injuries

While some workplace injuries resolve in a relatively short time, others continue to cause issues years after the initial injury. Employees are entitled to recover compensation for almost all work related injuries, but when an employee suffers more than one injury, it can become unclear who is responsible for providing workers’ compensation benefits. Pursuant to Massachusetts’s workers’ compensation law, only one insurer is liable for benefits for a disability, even if the employee suffers two or more injuries that contribute to the disability. In Lombardo’s Case, the Court of Appeals of Massachusetts explained that whichever insurer provided insurance at the time of the latest injury that contributed to an employee’s disability is liable for the entire amount of compensation benefits. If you sustained injuries in a work related accident, you should retain an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to assist you in recovering the full amount of benefits to which you are entitled.

Factual Background

Allegedly, the employee in Lombardo suffered a knee injury while in the course of his job duties. His employer’s workers’ compensation insurer accepted his claim and paid him the benefits he was owed. The employee subsequently returned to work without issue for ten years. Reportedly, he was then diagnosed with arthritis and eventually underwent a total knee replacement. He retired prior to his knee replacement and filed a claim with the Department of Industrial Accidents for additional disability benefits.

The insurer at the time of the injury alleged the employee suffered a subsequent work related injury and moved to join other insurers. The administrative judge found there was no subsequent injury and denied the motion, ordering the insurer to pay any benefits the employee was owed. The insurer appealed.

Ruling of the Appeals Court of Massachusetts

The Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the administrative judge’s ruling. The court noted that when an employee sustains more than one work related injury that results in a disability only one insurer is liable for the payment of workers’ compensation benefits. Whichever insurer provided workers’ compensation insurance for the employer at the time of the latest injury that relates to the disability must pay the benefits if the injury in any way contributes to the disability.

The court went on to say that whether the employee suffered a second injury for which he could recover was a question of fact. Here, the evidence of record, including the employee’s own testimony, did not support the finding of a second injury and there was no abuse of discretion on behalf of the administrative judge. As such, the court affirmed the administrative judge’s ruling.

Meet with a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you suffered a work related injury you should be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. You should confer with a knowledgeable experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to assess your case and determine what benefits you may be owed. Karsner & Meehan’s workers’ compensation attorneys have the experience to help injured workers obtain the benefits to which they are entitled. Contact our office at 508-822-6600 for a free and confidential consultation.

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