Massachusetts Appeals Court Reverses Decision Denying Psychiatric Injury Benefits after Finding that Lower Court Failed to Review Relevant Medical Records

Mental health workers face some of the most serious work-related injuries, especially if they work with patients who have conditions that cause them to be violent or to act out. The stress of working in this type of environment or from being involved in a patient-related altercation can have serious consequences for the worker. And while people generally know that workers’ compensation provides benefits for physical injuries, fewer people know that it also provides benefits for mental health issues that stem from a work-related condition or accident. Our knowledgeable team of Boston workers’ compensation lawyers is standing by to help you understand whether your physical and/or psychiatric injury is compensable.

In a recent claim, a Massachusetts Court of Appeal addressed a situation where the injured employee was awarded partial incapacity benefits following an accident at work where a patient struck her on the face and head. In her claim, she also requested compensation for psychiatric injuries, which the lower judge initially denied on the basis that she did not provide enough supporting information.

The worker appealed the denial, arguing that she had forwarded a series of medical records to the judge within the allowed timeframe and that she used an encrypted transmission service to send the records electronically. She also provided a transmission confirmation from the company who sent the records showing that they had been received. In the documents supporting the judge’s decision denying the psychiatric benefits, however, the medical records were not listed as part of the evidence that was considered and lacked any indication regarding whether the judge reviewed the records.

In response to the appeal, the insurer argued that the denial of psychiatric benefits should be denied anyway because the medical records in question were allegedly redundant and cumulative of other documentation and evidence in the record regarding her psychiatric injury including opinions from her psychiatrist and therapist.

On review, the appellate court pointed out that the insurer did not object to the admissibility of the information from her two doctors at any point in the proceedings, which meant that it waived any right to object to the evidence on appeal. The appellate court reviewed the medical records that the employee sent and the trial record before concluding that the proceedings must be remanded so that the court could take proper note of the medical records and evidence, which the judge should have considered in making a determination on whether to award benefits for the worker’s alleged psychiatric harm. The insurer did not object to the admissibility of these records either.

If you were hurt at work and now experience physical pain and/or psychiatric injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Office of Michael O. Smith, we proudly serve Boston area residents with understanding and asserting their right to workers’ compensation benefits after an on-the-job accident. We provide a free consultation so that you can learn more about our team and how the claims process works. Call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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