Massachusetts Appellate Court Approves Award of Total Incapacity Benefits in Case Involving Pre-Existing Neck Injury

If you have been injured at work, the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system provides benefit payments to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. In order to receive these benefits, however, you must file a claim and prove a variety of aspects related to your injury and likelihood of recovery. One of these factors that can be difficult to establish is the extent of your injury. The experienced Massachusetts work injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith have assisted numerous Boston workers with establishing the scope of their injury so that they can secure the benefit payments that they need and deserve.

A Massachusetts appellate court recently decided a case involving a scope of injury issue. The worker was a plumber who had a history of neck-related pain that arose during his sleep. He received a medical procedure for this injury in 2004 and was later approved to return to his usual occupational duties. A few years later, the self-employed plumber accepted a position with a plumbing company. About nine years later, the man informed his employer that he was feeling stiffness and pain in his neck following his use of a hammer drill. He then scheduled an appointment with a neurosurgeon, who treated his symptoms.

The plumbing company accepted liability and paid benefits to the man for a short duration. He then filed a claim requesting that his incapacity benefits continue on a non-temporary basis. The judge assigned to the workers’ compensation claim approved the claim and required the plumbing company to pay continuing incapacity benefits. The worker underwent a medical examination by a neutral doctor. This physician determined that the neurosurgeon who recently treated the man did not adequately apportion his symptoms among his pre-existing neck condition and the work-related injury. The plumbing company filed a motion requesting that the judge consider this new information, which the judge allowed.

After reviewing the doctor’s assessment, the judge determined that the prior existing neck condition did not constitute the major cause of the man’s condition. Accordingly, it ordered the plumbing company to continue paying incapacity benefits. The plumbing company appealed. On review, the appellate court confirmed the lower court’s conclusion regarding the major cause of the man’s disability, noting the established rule that a judge has the authority to give weight to one medical expert’s opinion over another. The plumbing company also appealed the lower court’s award of total disability benefits on the basis that the treating doctor had indicated that it was likely that the man would eventually return to his usual occupation. After reviewing evidence in the record, the appellate court determined that the lower court failed to make sufficient findings regarding whether the plumber was entitled to receive total incapacity benefits. As a result, the appellate court remanded the matter for additional proceedings.

If you were injured on the job, our dedicated team of Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers is prepared to help you understand your legal rights and to pursue the benefits that you need. We know just how confusing the claims process can be, and we will ensure that your rights are protected and asserted to the fullest extent at every juncture. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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