Massachusetts Reviewing Board Reverses Denial of Additional Benefits in Permanent Hearing Loss Benefits Claim

Empty Subway TunnelThere are countless different types of injuries that can occur while you are on the job. As knowledgeable Boston workers’ compensation lawyers, our attorneys have assisted many Massachusetts residents with understanding their right to compensation following a work-related injury. As a result, we have experience dealing with a wide array of injuries, including permanent and catastrophic injuries.

A recent Massachusetts review board decision discussed whether a man who lost his hearing as a result of working in subway tunnels was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The worker was employed in the subway tunnels for over two decades. The noise levels in subways are extremely high, especially as the trains depart and enter each station. There is a loud screeching noise that is emitted and that echoes throughout the tunnels. Despite this hearing danger, the employer prohibited workers from using any type of ear protection due to the safety risks involved.

In 2004, the man reported that he was suffering hearing loss, and this was an ongoing issue for him for the next 12 years. In 2012, the man retired and applied for employment elsewhere. According to him, he had trouble gaining employment because of his difficulty hearing. Many occupations for which he would be qualified saw his hearing loss as a safety risk. He finally obtained a custodial job with the Postal Service.

After filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the employee underwent an examination by an impartial doctor, pursuant to Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws. According to the doctor’s report, the employee had a bilateral hearing loss issue as a result of his prolonged exposure to high levels of noise in the subway tunnels. The administrative law judge who was overseeing the man’s claim adopted the doctor’s findings and awarded benefits for the employee’s permanent hearing loss. The judge did not accept the worker’s demand for additional benefits, based on his finding that he could find meaningful work in another occupation that did not require him to be exposed to loud noises.

The employee appealed the denial of the additional benefit payments. The reviewing court agreed with the employee and determined that the administrative law judge did not calculate the employee’s earning capacity appropriately. The judge had improperly considered the employee’s position with the Postal Service, which was a temporary job. Based on the temporary nature of this work, the reviewing board concluded that it was not clear whether the employee would find long-term work, and it was clear that the employee would not be able to return to his prior occupation.

Navigating the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system is difficult, especially if you are new to the claims process. At the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith, we realize how much stress a work injury can place on your family and you. Let our seasoned team of work injury lawyers put their skillsets and experience to use for you in recovering lost wages and other benefits. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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