Ensuring that the judge presiding over your workers’ compensation claim resolves issues completely and correctly is a key step in obtaining the full amount of benefits that you deserve. There are countless rules that govern workers’ compensation proceedings and having a dedicated Boston work injury lawyer representing you throughout your claim can ensure that the rules are respected and that your rights are asserted. One of these rules indicates that an employee who chooses to retire voluntarily may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
In a recent claim, an employee suffered three different injuries while working as a machinist across a 30-year period. The first accident happened in 2010 and involved slipping on a wet floor, resulting in a neck, back, and head injury. The man returned to work but with limitations on the tasks that he could perform. He also underwent physical therapy during this time.
In 2013, he was injured on the job again while tightening fixtures, resulting in an elbow, arm, and neck injury. He underwent treatment for this injury and did not take any time off from work. Again, he was assigned job-related restrictions. In 2014, the worker elected for a retirement buyout package. When his last day of work arrived, he reported severe back pain and went to a doctor’s office to be examined.
The man filed a workers’ compensation claim, which requires claimants to undergo an examination from an independent doctor. The doctor prepares a report describing your injuries and whether they are causally related to your work accident. Here, the independent medical examiner concluded that the man suffered several work-related injuries. The presiding judge awarded partial incapacity benefits and reimbursement for reasonable medical expenses. The judge also stated that the man retired due to his ongoing injuries and pain and likely out of a desire to prevent further injuries.
The insurance company for the employer appealed the award of benefits on the basis that the judge did not take into account that the worker continued to receive the same wages while working with restrictions. The insurer also argued that the judge erred in failing to consider that the man could have continued working in a restricted manner when he chose to retire. Next, it argued that the court did not evaluate whether the man’s voluntary decision to retire made him ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits as opposed to being a forced retirement due to his injuries.
In response, the employee stated that the judge categorized it as a forced retirement based on the judge’s statement that the man chose to retire to prevent ongoing pain and additional injuries. The man had testified that he was finding it difficult to perform his job duties even with the restrictions because of the pain that he experienced. Ultimately, the appellate court agreed with the judge, finding enough evidence in the record to support a conclusion that the retirement was based on the workers’ need to prevent further injuries.
At the Law Office of Michael O. Smith, we know how overwhelming and complex the Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation system can seem. While you focus on your recovery and rehabilitation, our team of legal professionals will fight zealously to help you secure the benefits package that you deserve. We have handled numerous claims on behalf of Boston residents and are well-versed in the rules that apply to claims. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.