Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Reviewing Board Affirms Decision in Favor of Injured Worker

A slip and fall in Massachusetts can lead to injuries ranging from minor cuts and scrapes to serious head, spine, and back injuries. Slip and fall injuries can occur anywhere outside the home, including shopping centers, public sidewalks, and the workplace. If civil action is taken in a slip and fall accident, the injured person typically files a personal injury suit. However, when the accident occurs in the workplace, a workers’ compensation claim must be filed with the employer, and monetary payments are handled by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. The recovery covers past and future lost wages and payment for medical expenses and doctors’ visits.

Insurers will often try to limit the amount of payment made to an injured worker and may utilize the appellate process to protest awards given by a workers’ compensation judge or review board. In a recent Reviewing Board Decision, Sullivan v. Centrus Premier Home Care, a recommitted decision was affirmed in favor of the injured visiting nurse. While the injured nurse was visiting a patient, she sustained injuries to her back, knee, and hip in a slip and fall accident.

At the underlying hearing, the judge, when finding for the injured nurse, relied on the nurse’s testimony of complaints of pain and physical restrictions, as well as the medical opinions of one of the physicians who testified that she sustained a traumatic strain to her lumbar spine that required surgery. The injured nurse had a previous condition, but the doctor opined that the work accident contributed to 50% of her condition. While the doctor ruled that the treatment for the spine was reasonable, he determined that the peripheral joint disease, peripheral arthralgia, neck pain, and right knee pain were unrelated to the work injury. The judge adopted these medical findings and awarded recovery for the spinal treatment and surgery. The Judge also found that the nurse was temporarily and totally incapacitated from gainful employment.

The insurer appealed the ruling, arguing that the injury did not satisfy the definition of a personal injury under the workers’ compensation statutes. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Section 1(7A), a qualifying personal injury that also stems from a prior condition must be a major but not necessarily predominant cause of disability or need of treatment. The Reviewing Board pointed out that the doctor’s opinion placed the cause at 50%, but an equal or majority percentage was not necessary to qualify as a “major cause” under Massachusetts case law and statutes. The Reviewing Board affirmed the judge’s award to the injured nurse, ruling that there was no error in relying upon the doctors’ opinions during the hearing of the nurse’s condition.

The Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the litigation experience you need to maximize your benefits. We understand it is a hardship to physically recover while worrying about paying medical and utility bills. Our attorneys and staff tirelessly work to provide you the legal relief you need and deserve. If you have been injured while at work, contact our office today for a free, confidential consultation at 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Understanding Medical Reports in Massachusetts Car Accident Trials, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, July 30, 2014
When are Punitive Damages Available under Massachusetts Law?, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, July 21, 2014