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52-Year-Old Road Construction Worker Awarded Workers’ Compensation Benefits Over Disabling Back Injury

When reviewing a workers’ compensation case, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) may adopt the opinion of any medical expert. In Tracy v. City of Pittsfield, Board No. 031069-09, a 52-year-old man was employed as a laborer and heavy equipment operator for the City of Pittsfield. The man apparently injured his back while operating a piece of road construction equipment in 2008. About one year later, the employee was again hurt at work. In September 2012, the injured worker underwent back fusion surgery.

About one month after his surgery, a neutral physician examined the man pursuant to the provisions included in § 11A of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law. The ALJ, however, ruled that the case was medically complex and the neutral doctor’s report was inadequate. After that, the man’s employer admitted to liability for the 2009 workplace injury but refused to accept liability for the laborer’s surgery and other related medical issues. The employer also claimed that the worker’s harm resulted from a pre-existing condition.

Following a hearing, the ALJ adopted the surgeon’s view that all of the laborer’s back injuries were causally related to his workplace accident. As a result, the ALJ ordered the man’s employer to pay the laborer § 34A temporary total incapacity workers’ compensation benefits. The employer then appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board.

According to the employer, the ALJ failed to properly consider all of the medical evidence submitted in the case. The Board disagreed and stated it was appropriate to presume that the ALJ considered the medical evidence offered to him because he listed each as an exhibit at the workers’ compensation hearing. In addition, the ALJ stated in his opinion that he reviewed all of the medical evidence provided before rendering his decision. The Board added that the ALJ was not required to explain why he adopted the view of one medical expert over that of another.

Next, the Board dismissed the employer’s assertion that the ALJ failed to consider its § 1 (7A) pre-existing condition claims. It also disagreed with the employer’s claim that the surgeon improperly determined the workplace incident was the cause of the laborer’s harm. Although the physician initially misstated the date of the man’s injury in his report, the Board found that the date had no factual relevance because the surgeon determined that the type of harm sustained by the worker was consistent with the workplace accident in which he was injured. The Board next said that the ALJ was free to infer the surgeon was describing the industrial accident at issue in the case.

Finally, the Board affirmed the ALJ’s decision awarding the laborer § 34A benefits and ordered the insurer to pay the injured employee’s legal expenses.

If you or someone you love was seriously hurt in a Massachusetts workplace accident, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. To speak with a knowledgeable Boston workers’ compensation lawyer about your situation today, contact the skillful workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

Tracy v. City of Pittsfield, Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board No. 031069-09, January 15, 2015

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