Massachusetts Reviewing Board Upholds Decision Granting Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Injured Bus Driver

When accidents happen at the workplace, the injured person has no control over the severity of the injury and whether or not he or she suffered from other medical ailments independent of the workplace. Pre-existing conditions often present large hurdles to obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. While fault or negligence does not have to be shown, the injury must have occurred while furthering the business of the employer. Complex medical records and expert testimony from physicians or other medical professions may be necessary to show the origins of the injury and what type of medical treatment will be necessary to make the employee whole from the work-place accident.

In Lastih v. Erickson Retirement Community, a bus driver for a retirement community injured her lower back while lifting a resident’s walker. After a denial by the insurance company for benefits, she sought a hearing in front of a Workers’ Compensation Judge, where the insurance company claimed that she had pre-existing conditions as its defense. The judge ruled in favor of the injured bus driver, relying on testimony from the impartial medical examiner, who opined that she sustained lumbar and sacroiliac (lower back) strain that aggravated the pre-existing degenerative joint and disc disease in her spine. The judge found her to be totally incapacitated and ordered benefits. No party appealed this decision.

Two years later, the insurer filed to have the benefits discontinued, which was denied. The insurer then had another impartial medical examiner assess the injured bus driver. The insurer withdrew the appeal following the report, and the employee filed for total, permanent incapacity benefits. After an additional examination, reports, and appeals, the judge awarded total and permanent benefits. The judge found that the employee’s disability was casually related to the injuries she sustained when lifting the resident’s wheelchair onto the bus.

The Reviewing Board declined to take the insurer’s point of view and upheld the WCJ’s decision to provide benefits at all stages. The Board found there to be sufficient testimony from the reviewing doctors, who consistently found her to be totally disabled as a result of the workplace injury, and from the employee herself that her condition was severely aggravated by the workplace accident. The Board also disagreed with the insurer’s insistence that a “bright line objective standard” should be applied to whether or not cases are medically complex. The Board pointed to the legislative history, which allows judges at their own initiative to allow additional medical evidence after a finding of complexity.

Presenting a strong workers’ compensation case is easier when you have a knowledgeable team behind you. The attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the Massachusetts workers’ compensation experience you need to pursue your workers’ compensation claim. Our lawyers understand that recovery is difficult enough without worrying about whether or not you can continue to pay utility and medical bills. For a free, confidential consultation today, contact our office today at 508.822.6600.

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Massachusetts Superior Court Finds Deceased Patient’s Estate Provided Enough Proof of Medical Malpractice, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, October 28, 2014
What Happens In a Massachusetts Car Accident Case that Involves an Out-of-State Policy? Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, October 21, 2014