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Massachusetts Court of Appeal Reverses Termination of Benefits in Lower Back Injury Involving Pre-Existing Conditions

If you are injured at work, you can receive compensation for your lost wages and medical expenses related to the injury. This is fairly straightforward when the injured employee is healthy, but when pre-existing injuries and medical conditions are involved in the analysis of determining whether the employee is entitled to benefits, the process can get much more complicated. As seasoned Boston workers’ compensation lawyers, the attorneys at Mass Injury Group are available to assist you with evaluating whether you are entitled to benefits in the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system.

In a recent case, the Massachusetts Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether a worker’s benefits had been properly canceled. The worker in the case suffered from a pre-existing condition affecting his lower back and was injured in the same area while working as a glass installer for a vehicle repair company. He sustained the injury in a car accident while he was working in November 2016. The insurer for the employer filed a motion asking the court to discontinue the payment of benefits to the employee associated with the crash. The lower court instead modified the award of benefits and required the insurer to continue to pay partial benefits. Both parties filed an appeal.

The worker underwent an independent medical examination. Based on the report that the doctor prepared, the judge determined that the worker experienced a history of lower back problems that were not related to his job. The judge also determined that the employee underwent a spinal fusion procedure when he was very young. Although the worker testified to his history of back injuries and stated that he was pain-free before the car accident, the judge only gave the testimony partial credit. Taking all of this evidence into account, the court decided to terminate the employee’s benefits.

The worker appealed and the appellate court reversed the lower court’s ruling on the basis that the judge did not make sufficient findings of fact to support her conclusion that the worker’s benefits should be terminated. More specifically, the appellate court pointed out that the lower court judge adopted numerous opinions from medical experts about the impact of the worker’s pre-existing back conditions on the most recent injury but failed to state whether each opinion supported or went against terminating benefits. The appellate court also concluded that the lower court judge may have improperly characterized some of the testimony that a medical expert provided in one of the reports.

Finally, the appellate court noted that the medical reports failed to address whether the worker required ongoing treatment for his back injury and instead only focused on his functionality. According to Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, although an employee may have his or her benefits terminated, the employee may still require ongoing treatment related to the injury and is entitled to receive compensation for the medical expenses related to the ongoing treatment of the work injury.

Work injuries can be debilitating and incredibly stressful when they impact your financial security and independence. At Mass Injury Group, our seasoned Boston workers’ compensation lawyers will work diligently to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process and that you receive the outcome you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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