Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

Achieving a successful result in your initial workers’ compensation benefits hearing is very important. If you succeed and your employer appeals, there are limited ways the employer can win. An appeal that essentially asks the Reviewing Board to reweigh the evidence very likely won’t succeed. The workers’ compensation judge is the trier of fact and has the authority to make decisions regarding witnesses’ credibility and the weight that various pieces of evidence should receive. As long as there was a reasonable basis for what the judge decided, your award of benefits will generally be upheld. Before you take on the workers’ compensation process, be sure you have representation from a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

C.D. was a worker who was able to achieve that successful result in his hearing. C.D. drove, loaded and unloaded a truck for his employer. One day, at the end of his shift, the driver fell out of his truck, hitting his elbows, shoulder and head. C.D. later filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. A hearing was held and, at that hearing, both the driver and a doctor gave credible testimony that the injuries resulting from the accident had left the driver temporarily totally disabled. The judge ruled in favor of the driver and ordered that he receive what’s known as “Section 34” benefits, which means temporary total disability benefits.

The doctor who gave the testimony was an independent medical provider who examined C.D. under the auspices of Section 11A(2) of the workers’ compensation law. In any workers’ compensation case, one of the most important things you’ll have to prove is causation. If you have a history of medical problems prior to your workplace accident, your employer (or employer’s insurer) may try to argue that your injuries are actually tied to those pre-existing conditions, not your workplace accident. Success, then, may be closely tied to having very credible and persuasive testimony that proves this connection with regard to causation.

When you find yourself in need of workers’ compensation benefits, it is important to be sure you make your best possible presentation and arguments at your hearing. It is generally much easier to defeat an employer’s appeal of your successful workers’ compensation hearing (and award of benefits) than it is to mount a successful appeal of your unsuccessful workers’ compensation hearing (and denial of benefits). When it comes to making that strong presentation, be sure you have the skill and knowledge of an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney on your side.

As an example of this, take the case of N.F. N.F. was a woman with an eighth-grade education who had spent much of her working life in industrial jobs. For nearly two decades, she worked at a facility that made plastic buckets and lids. The work was strenuous, repetitive and it required near-constant use of the employee’s fingers and hands. After 19 years at this job, the work began taking its toll. At age 53, N.F. began experiencing pain and numbness in her hands and fingers. She had surgery and attempted to return to work, but had to leave again due to throbbing pain and numbness.

At that point, the woman filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. There are various types of workers’ compensation benefits you can obtain. There are disability benefits, which can be permanent or temporary. A workplace injury that leaves you unable to work at all for a period of time, but will allow for a return at a future date, may entitle you to temporary total disability benefits, which is written into the law in Section 34 of the Workers’ Compensation statute.

Understanding “Pain and Suffering”

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident and you’re seeking compensation from a liable defendant, chances are very high you may have heard the phrase “pain and suffering” being used by Attorneys. While, most all of you reading are familiar with the use of these words, their use as legal terms carries a fair share of subtle distinctions.

Pain and suffering resulting from an accident is used as an umbrella term that encompasses the physical and emotional damages that are a result of the accident. To elaborate further, “pain” would include bruises, a broken arm, fractured rib, etc, while “suffering” would be the emotional fallout resulting from those injuries, emotional and mental injuries would be one way to understand “suffering.” These emotional injuries would include feelings such as depression, grief, anxiety, and even fear to name a few.

For any worker who’s been hurt on the job, workers’ compensation benefits can serve as an essential aid, allowing them to meet their financial obligations while they are unable to work. This can be especially vital for manual laborers with limited academic backgrounds, as they may lack the skills to take on many types of jobs that involve lighter-duty work, meaning that they may take longer to get back on the job after an injury. Whether you are a manual laborer or not, getting the workers’ compensation benefits you need often comes down to how effective you are in demonstrating your disability and your wages. To be sure you get the benefits you need, reach out to an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your case.

K.A. was an example of this type of manual laborer. He did not have a college degree or a high school diploma, and he had “reading comprehension issues.” The worker had no computer skills. He had worked in manual labor fields from the age of 18 until he suffered his workplace injury in his mid 50s. At that time, K.A. injured his back while shoveling gravel on the job. The accident happened in the completion of a public construction job.

In a case like this, there are essential calculations that must be made. Typically, calculating a worker’s average weekly wages involves taking the worker’s total gross wages (including overtime and bonuses) from the previous 12 months, then dividing that number by 52. That figure is then multipled by the appropriate percentage figure depending upon the type of disability the worker suffered.

Each workplace accident that ends in death is tragic as it cuts a life short far too soon. It is also traumatic for the loved ones left behind. In addition to emotional damage, workers who die as a result of industrial accidents can potentially cause major financial crises for their immediate loved ones, as they may be significant (or even sole) income earners for their families. In Massachusetts, the families of workers killed on the job have certain legal avenues available to them. One of these is seeking workers’ compensation death benefits. To make sure that you obtain the compensation your family needs to survive financially, talk to an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

July 2018 was an unfortunately bad month for fatal industrial accidents in Massachusetts. In one instance, a 26-year-old died after entering a large industrial cutting machine that was under maintenance at a facility in Sharon. At some point, the man became stuck inside the machine’s workings. EMTs took roughly 90 minutes to free the man and rush him to the hospital. Although the worker was conscious and talking to the EMTs when they arrived, he died at the hospital from his injuries. Roughly a week later, a worker at a Concord hospital died from injuries sustained at his workplace. The 46-year-old man was working on the hospital’s boiler system when he entered its crawl space. He left behind a wife and two children.

Surviving spouses, children and other dependents of workers killed in a workplace accident (or who die as a result of complications from that accident) can obtain workers’ compensation survivor benefits. (Children are only eligible for benefits if they are under 18, are full-time students or cannot work due to their disabilities.)

A famous book once advised, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” While that advice may work well in many areas, the law is not one of those areas. In legal matters, including workers’ compensation cases, small details can make big differences in outcomes. To make sure you have all of your bases covered in your workers’ compensation case, both great and small, be sure you have representation from a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.C.P.’s workers’ compensation case was one example in which the details mattered a lot. C.P. was an assistant manager of a supermarket meat department in 2013 when, while pulling a box of chicken at work, he injured his back. The manager filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer fought the manager’s request for benefits, but the workers’ compensation judge ordered the employer to pay temporary total disability benefits of $1,040 per week, starting on Dec. 2, 2013.

In the spring of 2016, the employee filed a request for permanent total disability benefits. The judge, however, only awarded the employer partial disability benefits. At the hearing, the judge had heard from a doctor who diagnosed C.P. with a protruding disc and, while concluding that the employee could not perform his old meat cutter duties, found that he could do light-duty work as long as it involved no prolonged standing or walking, and no lifting of more than 10 pounds.

The employee appealed his case, contending that the workers’ compensation judge made a legal error when the judge awarded him only partial disability benefits. After he received an award of temporary total benefits, the employee was only required by the law to show that there had been no improvement in his back condition. The employee’s argument was that, “even where the only medical evidence is of partial disability,” the employer’s acceptance that he was totally disabled (in his previous temporary disability claim) meant that he was only obliged to show a lack of improvement, rather than demonstrating total disability.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an important new ruling regarding who qualifies as an employee and who is an independent contractor when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits. While court did not adopt the rule for which the injured worker advocated and the ruling ultimately was an unsuccessful outcome for this particular worker, that does not mean that you should give up and fail to pursue your case for benefits, even if your employer asserts that you are an independent contractor. Each case is different and the factors that Massachusetts uses may yield a more favorable result for your case. Be sure never to assume and, instead, talk to an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

The worker in the case was a woman who delivered papers. She fell on a ramp while working and hurt her right knee and hand. A few months later, she fell on ice and injured her right leg. The injuries eventually caused the worker to undergo two surgeries, one on her knee and one on her hand.

The woman brought a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer asserted that the woman was an independent contractor and, as a result, not eligible for benefits. The woman, in opposition to that argument, contended that the definition of an “employee” contained in the independent contractor statute established that she was an employee.

Firefighter exposed to toxic smoke

The Massachusetts Senate approved a firefighter cancer bill that will enable firefighters and other state workers, such as police officers who are regularly exposed to dangerous fire related conditions, to treat cancer as a work related/line of duty injury. This change offers increased protections to first responders who put their lives at risk for the safety and security of our society. Before this bill, first responders suffering from cancer related illnesses would utilize their sick time while treating for cancer. After the finite amount of sick leave ends, payroll and healthcare benefits cease, making an already difficult financial, physical, and emotional battle all the more challenging.

“We accept the sacrifice of our job as a part of our calling, but when we get diagnosed with cancer, and we run out of sick leave, and we go off the payroll, and we lose our healthcare that is just wrong,” said Ed Kelly of the International Association of Firefighters. Firefighters, and other first responders, especially in Massachusetts have an increased risk of being exposed to carcinogenic chemicals, more so than any other state. Massachusetts mandates flame-retardants in their fire code in hopes of preventing out of control fires and deaths attributed to fires. Boston had one of the lowest national rates of firefighters killed in action, which influenced Massachusetts decision to keep flame retardants a part of the fire code. (Boston Magazine)

There can many traps awaiting the unwary claimant in a workers’ compensation case. Your employer, or its insurer, likely will be armed with knowledgeable attorneys who are well-versed both in the facts of the case and the law. They may recite Latin words and phrases you don’t know, or legal terms with which you are unfamiliar. To make sure you avoid those traps, make certain you are as well-equipped as your opponent by retaining the services of an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

If you have pursued both a civil lawsuit and a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the former has the potential to impact the latter. An example of this was the case of L.Y., who worked as a clinical researcher at a biotechnology company, testing new medications. According to the researcher, his supervisor engaged improper methodology on some tests, which the researcher refused to follow. After the supervisor’s results were discarded, the researcher was allegedly reduced to “meaningless” work, ridiculed by co-workers and eventually fired. All of this, according to L.Y., caused him to suffer a psychological injury.

The researcher did not seek psychiatric care for nearly three years. His doctor diagnosed him as having experienced a “severe, single episode depression.” An impartial physician who examined L.Y. concluded that the researcher had schizoaffective disorder that, while not caused by the negative events at work, had been made worse by them. The independent doctor concluded that L.Y. was totally disabled and that “significantly improved functional capacity is unlikely.”

Sometimes, the key to achieving a truly full success in your workers’ compensation case is not succeeding in the initial hearing but overcoming your employer’s (or your employer’s insurer’s) efforts to terminate your benefits. Getting the full benefit of your workers’ compensation means not just being prepared to win your benefits hearing but also preparing for a hearing regarding the reduction or elimination of your benefits. For all of these processes, it is helpful to rely on experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation counsel who is well-versed in every type of hearing and process.

One worker who fought successfully to maintain his benefits in a recent ruling was Robert, a vending machine route delivery driver for many years. The driver’s job involved a great deal of heavy physical labor, including transporting boxes of coins that could weigh as much as 100 pounds. One day in the spring of 2015, Robert became injured when he fell down five steps at work.

Robert filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The judge in his case concluded that his injuries were very serious, including a fractured and dislocated elbow, along with a wrist injury. Robert was awarded temporary total disability benefits. Less than a year later, the insurer made an effort to reduce or eliminate the benefits. The basis for the insurance company’s effort was an examining physician’s opinion that Robert could perform light duty work with lifting restrictions.