Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), people who sustain injuries while working are often able to recover benefits from their employers. While some benefits are paid on a weekly basis, in other instances, an employer will offer a lump sum to resolve an employee’s claims. Generally, lump-sum agreements preclude parties from seeking further benefits for the same work-related harm. If the terms of the agreement are vague, though, a court may need to intervene to determine whether subsequent harm is compensable, as demonstrated in a recent opinion issued in a Massachusetts workers’ compensation case. If you sustained harm in a workplace accident, you could be owed benefits from your employer, and it is advisable to speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
The Subject Harm
It is reported that the plaintiff worked at an assisted living facility as a resident services assistant. In 2016, she was lifting a resident out of a wheelchair when she injured her right neck and shoulder. She subsequently underwent a surgical repair of her right shoulder; prior to the surgery, she was favoring her right shoulder, which caused pain in her left shoulder. She continued to have pain in her left shoulder after the surgery.
Allegedly, the insurer for the facility accepted liability for the right shoulder injuries and subsequent care about a year after the accident, and the parties entered into a lump-sum agreement. The agreement specified the diagnosis as a right shoulder tear and included a provision stating that it closed out any claim the plaintiff may have for harm arising out of the same incident. A year later, however, the plaintiff filed a second claim seeking benefits for injuries to her left shoulder. The insurer opposed the claim on the basis that it was barred by the lump-sum agreement. The administrative judge found in favor of the insurer, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →