In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, Reviewing Board, affirmed an award of workers’ compensation benefits on behalf of an injured employee who sought total incapacity benefits, meaning that she was unable to work as a result of her injury and requested compensation based on her average weekly wage. The issue in this case was whether the employee’s work-related injuries were caused by an industrial accident or were a result of prior medical conditions. According to the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer, the work-related incident did not cause her disability or need for treatment. Ultimately, the Board held the employee’s burden of proof had been met, since her prior medical conditions were in fact work-related and combined with an industrial accident, entitling her to benefits.
From 1972 to 2011, Cheryl Briere worked a certified nurse’s assistant. Over this period of time, she suffered injuries, some of which were work-related. Ms. Briere hurt her back in 1994 while lifting a 350-pound man into a car. She received workers’ compensation benefits as a result of this injury. Four years later, Ms. Briere was injured in a vehicle collision but was not absent from work as a result. Beginning in 1991, Ms. Briere worked for Lowell General Hospital. She suffered multiple injuries, some of which she reported, and most involved injuries to her back and hips. Unfortunately, in 2004, Ms. Briere was treated for injuries resulting from another vehicle accident. She underwent hip and back pain treatment in 2005 and back and neck pain in 2008.
On the date of the incident at issue, December 4, 2011, Ms. Briere had assisted her co-workers in moving a 400-pound patient. She suffered injuries to her neck, back, and hands. She completed her shift that day and returned on the following day. Two days later, Ms. Briere sought a leave of absence. She contended that the injury she suffered from lifting the patient made it impossible to successfully perform her job. She did not return to her employment at Lowell General Hospital.