Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Physical and Mental Disability Benefits Over Insurer’s Challenge

picture of stairsWorkers’ compensation is designed to provide benefits for individuals who are injured on the job. Although many people are aware that this includes physical injuries, fewer people are aware that it also provides benefits for individuals who suffer mental and psychiatric injuries as a result of work-related accidents or conditions. As dedicated Massachusetts work injury lawyers, we have helped many workers secure the benefits they deserve.

In a recent appellate opinion, a Massachusetts court upheld an award of workers’ compensation benefits to a woman who suffered a foot injury and a related psychiatric condition. The woman sustained an injury to her left foot when she fell down a stairway while on the job. Her employer’s workers’ compensation insurer did not dispute her claim for benefits for what her doctors described as an orthopedic foot injury. According to records provided in the claim, the woman had also made two claims for benefits regarding a psychiatric condition and corresponding treatment. The insurance carrier also approved benefit payments for the woman’s psychiatric condition and paid out partial incapacity benefits in addition to a portion of temporary total incapacity benefits.

Shortly after the award of these benefits, the woman received a number of surgeries to address her foot injury. After the procedures, however, she reported continued pain, numbness, and a persisting inability to walk or stand normally. She also reported that as a result of this debilitating condition, she was suffering from severe depression, anxiety, and anger. The workers’ compensation judge assigned to the claim reviewed this evidence and determined that the woman was completely and totally disabled as a result of both the physical and the mental condition. As a result of this finding, the judge ruled that she was entitled to receive the remainder of the temporary total incapacity benefit payments.

The insurance carrier challenged the judge’s findings on the basis that the woman did not report her mental condition soon enough and that she should, therefore, be prevented from receiving benefit payments for the alleged disability. The appellate court quickly dismissed this assertion, based on its finding that the insurer and the woman had stipulated that her mental disability was a work-related injury condition earlier in the claim and that the only issue left to adjudicate was the extent of the mental injury.

The insurance carrier also challenged the lower court’s finding that the woman was totally and permanently disabled. It argued that evidence in the trial record showed that her condition had improved as much as 50 percent. The appellate court also disagreed with this challenge, stating that the insurer erroneously relied on testimony taken out of context from a medical expert presented at trial. The remainder of the medical expert’s testimony discussed his findings regarding the employee’s overall inability to function normally as a result of her injury.

If you have suffered an injury while at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to receiving prompt medical treatment, it is important for you to understand the scope of your legal rights and whether your injuries are compensable. At the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith, we have guided many injured Massachusetts workers through the claims process with compassionate, responsive, and diligent legal advice. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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