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Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Award of Partial Benefits Based on Judge’s Inconsistent Findings Regarding the Extent of Injury

There are usually a number of injuries involved in a workers’ compensation case. It is rare for only one body part to be affected. This can make it difficult to determine the amount of benefits that the injured worker should receive. In some cases, the employee may need to pursue several claims for benefits relating to each of the injuries that he or she has suffered, or when one of the injuries worsens. The seasoned Boston workers’ compensation lawyers at Mass Injury Group have handled a wide variety of work injury benefit claims and are prepared to assist you with ensuring that you receive the full amount of benefits that you deserve under the law.

Recently, a Massachusetts Court of Appeal opinion addressed an appeal where the injured worker had filed six separate claims for benefits relating to a complex history of injuries. The worker was appealing an award of partial incapacity benefits related to a left ulnar neuropathy injury that she sustained while on the job in 2007 along with medical expense reimbursements related to treatment for the injury. She also suffered from spinal injuries related to the same occupation. In her appeal, the worker alleged that the judge made inconsistent findings regarding the nature and scope of her injuries and that the judge did not make a comprehensive assessment of the evidence that was provided at the benefits hearing.

On review, the appellate court agreed with the worker, concluding that the lower court judge did base the award of partial benefits on ultimate conclusions or medical opinions from an expert witness who provided testimony at the hearing. The final opinion that the judge issued lacked any reference of ultimate medical conclusions or the expert’s testimony describing the worker’s fibromyalgia condition.

The appellate court also concluded that the judge’s findings were inconsistent regarding whether the worker was partially incapacitated as a result of the 2007 injury. The judge’s opinion did not specify whether the award of partial incapacity benefits was the only benefits award that the worker was entitled to receive under the workers’ compensation laws. The final order did not make any mention of the deposition testimony of an expert witness when assessing the worker’s claims for benefits as a whole. If a judge’s order in a workers’ compensation claim contains inconsistent findings, then the order must be vacated, and the inconsistencies resolved. A judge is required to address specifically each issue involved and to provide a decision based on the findings of fact that are supported by the evidence provided by the parties.

In this case, the judge concluded first that the worker was partially disabled from the 2007 injury for the next three years, but then concluded that the worker did not establish that she was partially disabled as a result of the 2007 injury and that she had not proven that she was disabled after 2010. Due to this conflict, the appellate court vacated the order and remanded the case.

If you were hurt on the job, you can file a claim for benefits with the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system. This process can be complex and involves a number of procedural and substantive rules. The seasoned workers’ compensation lawyers at Mass Injury Group proudly serve hard-working men and women who were injured on the job, assisting them with ensuring that they receive the benefits they deserve. To schedule a free consultation, contact our office as soon as possible at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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