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Massachusetts Employee’s Workers’ Compensation Award Overturned Because He Failed to Meet His Evidentiary Burden

A Massachusetts employee who seeks to recover benefits for the aggravation of a pre-existing condition must establish that a workplace accident was a major cause of his or her injury. In Aleman v. City of Boston, a worker with a history of back injuries hurt his right ankle when he tripped on uneven concrete at work in October 2008. As a result, the man received § 34 temporary total incapacity workers’ compensation benefits through July 2009. After that, the employee returned to work on a limited basis and received § 35 partial incapacity payments through October 2009. The employee then began performing his full work duties. The following month, the worker underwent an MRI and received two steroid injections in his back. The employee did not return to work until his physician released him without restrictions in February 2010.

In July 2012, the employee apparently began suffering pain in his back and leg after he fell once again at work. According to the worker’s doctor, the man’s pain likely resulted from an aggravation of his prior back injuries. In addition, a medical examiner who evaluated the worker at his employer’s request stated the man’s July 2012 injury aggravated his earlier spinal harm. A § 11A impartial doctor also found that the man’s workplace accident aggravated his prior lumbar injury. The neutral medical examiner stated the worker was rendered totally disabled as a result. A few months later, another physician offered testimony that the employee’s back and other pain was directly related to his 2012 injury.

An administrative judge adopted the opinions of the various doctors and ruled that the worker met his burden under § 1(7A). As a result, the judge ordered the worker’s employer to pay him ongoing § 34 workers’ compensation benefits related to his July 2012 job-related fall, beginning in January 2013. Despite this, the judge did not state the employee’s work injury was a major cause of his disability. After that, both parties filed an appeal with the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board.

On appeal, the employer claimed the administrative judge adopted medical evidence that was not sufficient to establish the man’s workplace harm was a major cause of his disability. The Board said that, although the judge was not required to adhere to the exact language included in § 1(7A), the evidence on which his decision was based must be “substantially equivalent.” Since the medical evidence offered in the worker’s case only established that the man aggravated his pre-existing back injury, the Board said it was not enough to demonstrate the workplace incident was a major cause of his disability. As a result, the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board reversed the administrative judge’s decision and vacated the man’s workers’ compensation benefits award.

If you were injured at work in Massachusetts, you should discuss your right to recover benefits with a hardworking Boston workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as you are able. The caring attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve based on the severity of your workplace accident. To speak with a dedicated workers’ compensation advocate today, call Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. at 800-367-0871 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Aleman v. City of Boston, Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board Decision Nos. 017924-12 and 029551-08 (June 23, 2015)

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