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Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Benefits in Total Disability Case but Orders more Findings Regarding a Work Capacity Analysis

After you file a workers’ compensation claim, there are a number of steps that must be completed before you receive a benefits award. This involves reviewing medical records and, in some instances, undergoing a medical examination with an independent medical examiner agreed upon by both parties in the claim. Part of the analysis also involves determining whether you have reached maximum medical improvement, which is the best possible level of recovery that a doctor believes you will achieve following your injury. This determination has important implications for your ability to return to work and engage in other activities. At Mass Injury Group, or dedicated team of Boston workers’ compensation lawyers are prepared to assist you with ensuring that your claim is handled appropriately.

A worker in a recent case suffered injuries while working as a nurse. She was attempting to lift a patient in 2016 when she felt lower back pain that radiated down through her right leg. At the end of her shift, she received treatment in the emergency room of the hospital and did not return to work. She was unable to resume her regular duties due to her pain but did perform clerical work at the hospital with reduced hours. She reported experiencing continued pain and was unable to work all of the hours assigned to her.

The worker filed a claim for temporary total incapacity benefits, and it was granted. The insurer provided the worker with roughly $937 in benefits each week based on her average weekly wages of roughly $1,622. The commissioner assigned to the claim also ordered the employer to pay benefits to the injured worker based on her actual weekly wages instead of the average for a short duration. The insurance company appealed, which required the employee to undergo an independent medical examination. The medical report produced as part of the exam stated that the worker had reached the point of maximum medical improvement but that she was experiencing continued pain in her lower back that impaired her ability to perform her job duties. The employee testified during a hearing regarding her pain and the attempts she had made to find work.

The insurer eventually filed another appeal stating that the commissioner committed a reversible error when calculating the worker’s earning capacity and the extent of her disability. According to the appellate court, there was enough evidence in the record to reach a conclusion that the employee was suffering from a work-related disability for the periods identified in her claim. This evidence included the medical report and its conclusion that she had reached maximum medical improvement. The commissioner’s conclusion that she was disabled and still suffering pain related to the work-injury was reasonable.

The appellate court did find merit in the insurer’s next challenge that the commissioner had failed to perform a proper work capacity analysis. The evidence in the record was not clear regarding whether the judge had evaluated the worker’s ability to find some other type of work outside of the nursing industry. The only testimony that the worker provided concerned her search for another position in the nursing field. Accordingly, the appellate court recommitted the case for additional determinations.

If you experienced an injury while you were working, then you may be entitled to benefits and reimbursements for medical expenses through the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation system. We know how overwhelming this process can seem. We are available for a free consultation to discuss your situation and whether filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits is right for you. Call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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