Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Reviewing Board Affirms Benefits Awarded to Nursing Assistant with Severe Knee Injury

Many types of employment involve repetitive motions. Over the course of time, these repeated movements can lead to an injury that is compensable under Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws. A recent Board Decision in Aguilar v. Old Republic Insurance (Bd No. 029539-12) reviewed a decision that awarded a limited amount of temporary total incapacity benefits, an ongoing award of partial incapacity benefits, and medical benefits for a total replacement for the injured worker’s right knee. In this case, the injured employee worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), which required her to move, feed, dress, and bathe patients. During the proceedings, the injured CNA testified that she felt pain in her knees, especially the right one. The nurse stated that she fell to the floor in 2011, landing on the right knee while bringing a tray to a patient.

The employee stopped working in the year following the fall, and she had the knee replacement procedure. The injured CNA then applied for short-term disability benefits, followed by workers’ compensation benefits. Following the filing of this claim, the CNA was seen by an impartial medical examiner, who agreed with her treating physician that her employment was the major cause of her knee injury. The judge adopted these opinions, ruling out the pre-existing condition defense raised by the insurer. The judge found the injured CNA’s testimony regarding her multiple falls was credible, based on the hospital visit that followed a fall and a report to a supervisor. The judge also felt that she should be credited for all the multiple, documented complaints she made throughout the years preceding the knee replacement to her supervisor.

In addition to arguing the injured employee’s knee was the result of a pre-existing condition, the insurer also argued that the CNA did not prove she fell and struck something during the last reported fall, nor did she prove the rest of the falls described arose out of her employment. The insurer pointed to the employee’s non-work-related diagnosis of vertigo and dizziness as the cause of the falls. While the Reviewing Board agreed that the judge did not make findings about the falls or the nature of the falls, the judge felt that those falls were not really relevant to whether or not the injured CNA suffered a workplace injury. The board found that the focus of these proceedings was the repetitive movements the employee had to make while performing her duties. The board felt that there was plenty of evidence and testimony for the judge to find a workplace injury did occur, and to award all of the temporary, partial, and medical benefits.

Insurers and employers may try to distract judges and reviewing boards from the real issues surrounding the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve. The Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan can keep your case on track to maximize the benefits you need and are entitled to receive under the Commonwealth’s laws. For a free consultation, call today at 508.822.6600.

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