Massachusetts Court Upholds Disability Determination Following a Work Accident

Under Massachusetts law, employers are required to provide employees that sustain injuries at work with workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, however, employers do not always uphold their obligations and will attempt to avoid paying benefits by arguing that an employee did not sustain significant harm. This was illustrated in a recent case in which an employer appealed a decision determining that an employee was permanently disabled. If you sustained an injury at work, it is advisable to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer regarding what benefits you might be owed.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the claimant sustained a knee injury while working as a security patrol officer in 2005. Over time, her knee condition deteriorated, and she underwent surgery in 2012. After returning to work, she injured her left knee in August 2012 and had not worked since then. The claimant received ongoing treatment from an orthopedic surgeon and pain specialist.

Reportedly, based on the plaintiff’s testimony, medical opinions from the claimant’s providers, and an impartial medical examiner, the administrative judge determined that the claimant was permanently and totally disabled due to her work-related injuries. The judge ordered the employer to pay the employee temporary and permanent workers’ compensation benefits. The reviewing board summarily affirmed the judge’s decision. The employer then appealed to the Massachusetts courts.

Determining the Extent of a Disability

On appeal, the court upheld the reviewing board and administrative judge’s decisions. In doing so, the court noted that during the hearing before the administrative judge, the claimant testified that she experienced pain in both knees and her right thigh, requiring significant medication, affecting her sleep, concentration, and ability to stand or drive for extended periods, and the administrative judge justifiably found her testimony credible.

In its appeal, the employer argued that the administrative judge had failed to consider alternative employment opportunities for the claimant, thereby rendering the determination of total incapacitation arbitrary and capricious. The court explained, though, that a complete vocational analysis was required for partial disability benefits, not for total incapacitation benefits. Therefore, no additional vocational or earnings analysis was necessary.

The employer further contended that the administrative judge’s reliance on medical opinions without additional factual support was arbitrary and capricious. However, the court noted that the judge explicitly credited the claimant’s consistent testimony and certain portions of the medical experts’ opinions, which outlined her limitations and confirmed her permanent disability. Additionally, the claimant’s testimony aligned with the experts’ assessments of her limitations.

Ultimately, the court found that the administrative judge’s decision of permanent and total disability was well-supported by the evidence and not arbitrary or capricious. As such, it upheld the administrative judge’s determination.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

In Massachusetts, employees that suffer permanent harm due to a work-related injury may be eligible to recover permanent disability benefits from their employer. If you were hurt while working, 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 an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney, and if you engage his services, he can aid you in seeking any benefits you may be owed. You can contact Mr. Meehan to set up a meeting by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.