Industrial Worker’s Benefits Upheld by Workers’ Compensation Reviewing Board

When a Massachusetts worker faces the pain and inconvenience of an injury, the frustration over the inability to work can sometimes be overwhelming. Aside from facing lost wages during the recovery period, the employee may face the daunting reality of learning a new job skill if the injury was severe enough to prevent a full return to the work he or she had previously been able to do. Learning a new trade and potentially changing one’s occupation completely is challenging enough after a serious injury, but it can become a more complex decision if the worker suffers a series of moderate injuries over a period of time instead of catastrophic injuries from one accident.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Reviewing Board Decision, McDonald v. Brand Energy Services, Inc., the Board affirmed the award of Section 34 benefits (Temporary Total Incapacity) for an injured employee. The employee was a union laborer who had worked and been injured in industrial accidents over the years, dating back to 1991. The injured employee suffered back injuries four times prior to the immediate case on appeal. The employee acquired lump sum settlements in each case, and returned to work three years after the fourth accident in 2001. He did not work the heaviest jobs but did push through daily moderate back pain to complete other tasks.

In 2012, the employee sustained another back injury when a piece of staging was dropped by a colleague as they were loading a truck together. The employee was approved for light work following the accident, but he did not return to work. When he brought his application for benefits, the insurer alleged that by returning to work after several back injuries, he was committing serious and willful misconduct that precluded his ability to receive workers’ compensation for this injury. The workers’ compensation judge at the initial hearing ruled against the insurer, making a finding that the employee did not commit willful or serious misconduct and did not misrepresent his injury, since he advised he could not perform the heaviest tasks, like jackhammering. The Reviewing Board also did not believe that the employee’s return to work was misconduct, and it found that the injury was the result of the other employee hitting him, and it was no fault of his own.

The decision of the WCJ was upheld, and the award of the Temporary Total Incapacity benefits for the injured employee remained. When an employee receives Section 34 benefits, he or she is eligible for up to 156 weeks of pay, at 60% of his or her average weekly wage, during the period he or she is not working. While this case did not reveal whether or not this worker applied for Permanent Total Incapacity benefits, that is a potential option for other injured employees who cannot return to work as a result of a work injury.

This case shows that workers’ compensation insurance companies may attempt to use your choice to stay in your field of work against you. It is important to have experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers at your side to refute anything used to limit your workers’ compensation benefits. The attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the knowledge you need, and we are here to help maximize the benefits you deserve. Call today for a free, confidential consultation at 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Who Is Held Accountable for Operating Under the Influence Injuries Under Massachusetts Case Law?, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, November 24, 2014
Understanding the Complexities of Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Personal Injury Protection, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, November 17, 2014