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Massachusetts Appellate Court Raises Issue About Whether Permanent and Total Back Injury claim was Timely Filed

The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide injured workers with benefits for injuries they sustain while on the job. This includes sudden accidents as well as injuries related to repetitive movements. This latter type of injury can be more difficult to diagnose and identify because it usually happens over an extended period of time. In many cases, a worker will attempt to work through the pain and may not know what is causing the injury to begin with. At Mass Injury Group, our compassionate and experienced Boston work injury lawyers are available to help you evaluate your situation and whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Recently, a workers’ compensation claim in Massachusetts involved a person who worked as a sorter for a mail carrier. This job involved overhead lifting in addition to squatting. In 2009, the worker experienced pain in her neck, back, and shoulder. She informed her employer about this repetitive motion injury and took some time off work. She later returned to work even though the doctor advised her not to because she was concerned that she would be terminated from her job. A few years later, the pain in her back became so severe that she left her job. A few days later, she was doing yard work at home when she reported hurting her back. She received disability payments as well as Social Security disability payments.

A few years after the at-home injury, the woman applied for benefits based on a repetitive back strain injury while working for the mail carrier. Medical evaluations were conducted, and the presiding judge adopted the opinion of one of the experts, concluding that the woman experienced a degenerative disc disease that was related to her job functions. The judge also determined that she was permanently and totally disabled as a result. Because she had worked for so many years as a sorter, the judge rejected the argument that her injury was related to something other than her job.

The insurance company for the employer appealed, arguing that the employee did not file her claim in a timely manner. The claim was filed in 2015, many years after she quit working. According to Section 41 of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation rules, timely notice must be given as soon as practicable after the injury happens. A claim must also be filed within four years from the date the employee learned about the injury. The appellate court concluded that the lower court did not conduct a proper analysis of the timeliness of the claim and whether the employer or insurer had notice of the repetitive injury despite any failure to provide notice sooner. The court remanded the claim for further exploration of this issue.

If you were hurt at work, you should speak to a knowledgeable Boston work injury lawyer to ensure that you are protecting your rights. The workers’ compensation system is complex and can seem overwhelming, especially if this is your first work-related injury. Call the attorneys at Mass Injury Group at 617-263-0060 to set up a free consultation or contact them online to get started.

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