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Massachusetts Appeals Court Affirms Limitations on Worker’s Temporary Total Disability Benefits

Under Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws, employees who are hurt on the job and unable to work as a result are entitled to certain benefits. Included among these is the right to temporary total disability payments.

In order to receive temporary total disability benefits, the employee must be able to show that he or she suffered a total incapacity for work during the relevant time period. For employees who qualify, the employer (typically through its workers’ compensation insurance company) is obligated to pay the employee a benefit equal to 60% of his or her average weekly wage.

Of course, such payments are subject to minimums and maximums, and there is a time limit on the receipt of such payments. Under the current statutory scheme, an employee may not receive more than 156 weeks of temporary total disability payments.

Facts of the Case

In a recent, unreported workers’ compensation case, the plaintiff was a maintenance worker whose “heavy manual labor” job required him to sometimes lift up to 200 pounds. In 2017, he suffered a work-related injury to his hip and lower back. Thereafter, he attempted to return to work on multiple occasions but was ultimately advised to go home because he could not complete the tasks that had been assigned to him. The plaintiff sought workers’ compensation benefits, and a hearing was held in 2018. Both the plaintiff and the defendant employer appealed the decision of that hearing. After a second hearing and an appeal, the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents summarily affirmed the administrative judge’s order terminating the employee’s temporary total benefits as of a certain date in 2018 and crediting the insurer for overpayments made thereafter.

The Appellate Court’s Ruling 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the reviewing board’s decision. Although the plaintiff argued that the lower tribunal had erred in applying a heightened standard of causation and with regard to certain evidentiary rulings regarding a physician’s report and a physician’s testimony, the appeals court agreed with the employer that the correct decision had been made in the court below. In so holding, the court pointed out that it was only allowed to reverse a reviewing board’s order when an error law had been made or a decision was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise “not in accordance with law.”

Here, although there were certain conflicts in the evidence, the administrative law judge’s reconciliation of those conflicts was within the bounds of his authority. The court also rejected the employee’s assertion that the judge had improperly acted as a “silent witness” via a comment about the approximate weight of an object that the plaintiff had been filmed carrying in a surveillance video. The reviewing court noted that the administrative law judge’s comment was consistent with his role in determining the credibility of witnesses (including the plaintiff, who stated that the object weighed only four pounds.)

Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have questions about what to do following an on-the-job accident, the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III can help. To schedule a free consultation regarding your case, please call us at 888-262-6664 or use the contact form on this website. Please remember that all injury claims, including those arising from workplace accidents, are subject to time limits, so it is extremely important to act promptly in asserting your legal rights.

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