Reviewing Board Explains Difference Between Wear and Tear and Compensable Injuries in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Claims

Work-related injuries don’t always arise from accidents but can be caused by repetitive use. Proving that a repetitive use injury is work-related can be complicated, and employers will often try to avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits by arguing an injury was caused by wear and tear rather than conditions encountered in the work environment.

In Maldonando v. CPF Incorporated, the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board explained the difference between an injury due to wear and tear and a compensable injury in a workers’ compensation claim. If you suffered injuries in an employment-related accident, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation attorney to discuss what benefits you may be able to recover.

Claimant’s Work Duties and Injuries

Allegedly, the claimant, who was in her late fifties, worked placing labels on soda bottles in a factory. The bottles traveled down a conveyor belt and often fell over, and the claimant was required to upright them and make sure the labels were placed properly. Her shifts lasted ten to twelve hours per day, and she was required to walk or stand constantly during her shifts.

In June 2009, she fell from a bar she stepped on to change parts on a machine and hit her left leg. She was treated at a hospital and could not work for a week. She had right foot pain and continued to experience pain in her left leg and began to miss work due to the pain. She ultimately underwent lengthening of the right Achilles tendon and right triple arthrodesis surgery. She did not return to work following her surgery. She filed a claim for workers’ compensation medical benefits and wage benefits, which was granted. The employer appealed.

Wear and Tear Versus Compensable Injuries

On appeal, the employer argued the employee did not suffer a work-related injury but that her injury developed due to wear and tear and was not compensable. Specifically, the employer argued that the testimony of the medical experts at the hearing showed that the employee’s injury was caused by the repetitive activities of walking or standing or that the medical experts did not understand the nature of the employee’s work. The board explained that while cumulative injuries caused by repetitive use are compensable, an employee cannot recover workers’ compensation benefits for disabilities caused by wear and tear. The board explained that for an injury to be compensable, it must be caused by a specific occurrence or series of occurrences at work, or from a discernable condition that is not common in all or most workplaces. For example, having to stand or walk for an extended period of time are too common to be considered a specific condition of employment.

In the subject case, while the employee regularly had to walk or stand, she also had to change parts in machines which required her to perform repetitive climbing activities. The board noted there was also medical evidence that supported the argument the employee’s foot problems were the result of unique work conditions. As such, the board affirmed the administrative judge’s decision.

Meet with a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Repetitive actions are a common cause of work-related injuries.  If you sustained a repetitive use injury due to work conditions, you may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. It is in your best interest to meet with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your case and help you develop a plan to seek benefits. The workers’ compensation attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan zealously advocate on behalf of injured workers, to help them in their pursuit of benefits. Contact our office at 508-822-6600 to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Reviewing Board Holds Hearing Judge Erred in Expanding the Parameters of a Workers’ Compensation Claim Beyond Disputed Issues December 14, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog

Massachusetts Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board Rules Precise Wording is Not Necessary for an Expert Report to Adequately State No Injury Arose Out of Employment November 21, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog

Massachusetts Court of Appeals Holds Employer Liable for Workers’ Compensation Benefits for an Illness Diagnosed After Employment Ended November 12, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog