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Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Award of Full Benefits for Injured Construction Worker Based on Improper Vocational Analysis

One of the key steps in any workers’ compensation claim is determining whether you are able to return to work and the level of work that you are able to perform. This is known as a vocational analysis. If you are not able to return to the same level of work that you performed prior to your injury, you may be able to perform some type of light-duty work. This will then offset any benefit payments that you receive. In some instances, a judge may improperly conclude that your ability to work is much higher than it actually is. This can wreak havoc on your ability to receive the financial support that you deserve while also putting you in a challenging position professionally. Mass Injury Group’s Boston workers’ compensation lawyers are standing by and ready to assist you with ensuring that you are treated fairly in the workers’ compensation claims process.

Recently, the Massachusetts appellate court considered a dispute in a workers’ compensation claim regarding a vocational analysis. The worker was performing labor on a roof when a sheet of plywood was caught in a gust of wind. He tried to hold on to the board but the wind was very strong. He reported experiencing immediate pain in his shoulder during the incident and went to a nearby medical facility to receive treatment. He returned to work but three weeks later experienced what he described as a popping sensation. He and another worker were moving a bathtub when the other employee fell down. Although he went to the emergency room to seek treatment, he eventually left after he concluded that the wait time was too long.

The man continued to work for eight additional months until he was in so much pain that he could no longer handle working. He went to the hospital in 2010 and filed a claim for benefits through the workers’ compensation system. He then received a diagnosis for his shoulder injury, which was a severe strain, recurrent dislocations, and chronic instability. The doctor that made the diagnosis also prepared a report and concluded that these injuries were the direct outcome of the incident involving the sheet of plywood on the windy day. Diagnosed with a partial disability, the man tried to return to work but found it too painful. He was also unable to pursue other lines of employment due to the pain.

The man filed a second claim seeking benefits and the judge approved it. His employer’s workers’ compensation carrier appealed and requested an independent medical examination. The examiner concluded that the man was healed after having had surgery on his shoulder and that he could go back to work. The judge performed a vocational analysis and concluded that the worker did not speak English fluently, did not have a high school degree, and only had prior experience in the construction industry. The judge determined that the worker was entitled to full benefits.

The insurance company appealed again and the appellate court concluded that the court did not perform a proper vocational analysis. Specifically, it concluded that there was conflicting evidence regarding the worker’s language fluency and the extent of the physical limitations that he faced. As a result, the appellate court reversed the award of full benefits and remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the extent of his ability to perform work.

If you were hurt on the job, call Mass Injury Group today to learn more about how a Boston work injury lawyer may be able to help you. The consultation is free so there is no risk to you when speaking with us. Dial (617) 263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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