Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefit Award Affirmed by Workers’ Compensation Reviewing Board

Workers’ compensation benefits include permanent and total incapacity benefits (Ch. 152, Sec. 34A of the Massachusetts General Laws), which are awarded to those who have sustained injuries so severe they prevent an employee from ever working in the same capacity and line of work. These benefits can be issued after one accident, but they can also be given after a series of workplace accidents over the course of an employee’s career. As discussed in previous posts, employers and insurance providers may contest whether or not an employee qualifies for the benefits claimed. However, if any bona fide benefits are claimed and are not paid, the injured employee may be entitled to Sec. 50 benefits under the workers’ compensation statutes. This can be seen in the recent Board Decision of Comeau v. Enterprise Electronics.

Over 20 years ago, a worker sustained a herniated lumbar disc at the L3-4 level while on the job. He was given temporary total incapacity benefits until he returned to work, and then partial incapacity benefits when he did return to work for several more months. The injured worker continued to work with back pain until nearly two years after the first accident, when he slipped and fell after climbing onto the wet running board of a truck. He then suffered another herniated lumbar disc at the L4-5 level and was taken out of work for the ongoing back pain. The injured employee has not been able to return to work since then.

After the second accident, several motions were brought by both the injured employee and the insurance company, with several hearings scheduled and rescheduled. Seventeen years after the accident, the employee filed for benefits against both insurers that provided coverage to his employer over the course of that time. One insurer denied disability and argued that the other should be responsible for benefits from a date after the second accident as the successive insurer. The judge rendered a decision that ordered the second insurer to pay the Sec. 34A benefits and the medical treatment from the second accident. The first insurer was required to pay for the medical treatment related to the first accident and for penalties due to the late and nonexistent payments for other benefits.

Following an appeal and a recommitment for an additional hearing, the judge ordered the second insurer to pay interest to the employee on unpaid benefits, beginning from a year after the second accident through 2008, and then from 2010 until the interest is paid. In its appeal, one of the arguments that the second insurer made was that the employee did not give timely notice of his injury. The Reviewing Board strongly disagreed with this assertion because the employer filed a first report of injury more than five months after the accident, and it then filed a denial 14 days later. The Board did agree with the insurer’s assertion that the date of calculating interest was wrong, and it reversed the ruling with interest starting in 1996. The Board affirmed the rest of the prior award granting permanent and total incapacity benefits.

The Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan can help you maximize the benefits you deserve after suffering a workplace accident. For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office at 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruling Allows Injured Couple to Keep Millions in Awarded Damages, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, September 28, 2015
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Affirms Multi-million Dollar Verdict in Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Suit, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, September 15, 2015