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Massachusetts Reviewing Board Reverses Determination that Personal Care Assistant Can Perform Light Duty Work After Back Injury

If you were hurt at work, the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system is designed to provide you with compensation for your medical expenses and weekly payments to make up for your lost wages. This system is complex, and there are many steps you must take before you are deemed eligible to receive compensation. One of the biggest issues in a workers’ compensation case is determining whether the injured worker is still capable of performing light duty or alternative job tasks. At the Law Office of Michael O. Smith, our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers believe in providing personalized and vigorous legal counsel to injured workers.

A recent decision from the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents involved a determination regarding an injured worker’s light duty work capacity. The injured woman in the case was 63 at the time she was hurt as a personal care assistant. According to the worker, she suffered a serious back injury when she was assisting a client with moving in and out of bed. Her testimony said that the pain was a knife-like stabbing sensation that radiated through her back to her leg and foot. She filed a workers’ compensation claim and received temporary incapacity benefits from her employer’s workers’ compensation insurer.

As part of the workers’ compensation claims process, injured workers are required to undergo an impartial medical exam to determine the nature and extent of their injuries. The worker in this case underwent an exam, and the doctor concluded that she suffered a chronic lumbar strain that involved and created other associated conditions, such as a degenerative spine disorder. The worker and her employer both concluded that the woman could no longer engage in her same work duties. Once the woman received a number of medical treatments, the doctor cleared her to perform light duty job functions but later changed this conclusion based on subsequent examinations revealing that she was not able to perform light duty work.

The insurer contested this finding, and the administrative law judge assigned to the claim conducted a hearing to determine whether the woman could perform light duty work. By the judge’s review of the evidence, he determined that she could perform light duty work tasks and determined that her weekly earning capacity was roughly $400. The worker appealed this finding and challenged the finding that she could perform light duty work, as well as the $400 weekly earning capacity finding.

On review, the panel determined that the judge made a reversible error and that there was substantial evidence in the medical records to show that the woman was unable to perform light duty work tasks and that she required additional medical treatment. Since the judge erred in this light duty work finding, the appellate court also concluded that the finding of her $400 weekly earning capacity should be vacated.

If you suffered an injury while at work, you may be entitled to benefits through the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system. The seasoned team of work injury lawyers at the Law Office of Michael O. Smith understands how stressful and daunting this process can be, which is why we offer a free consultation to help you learn about your legal rights. To set up a free consultation, call us now at 1-617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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