Joyce Davis


Bodily Injury in Mass. Workers' Comp


In Massachusetts workers’ compensation, there are important differences between bodily injuries and emotional injuries. It is almost always much easier to recover for a physical injury because the standard of proof is lower. Thus, if an employee has a physical injury, he only has to demonstrate that it arose out of work. Even if the employee had a pre-existing condition that combined with a work-related problem, he must simply show that the work-related problem is “a major, but not necessarily predominant cause of disability.” It is important to note that the statute refers to “a major” and not “the major” cause of disability. Thus, even if the pre-existing condition is the major cause, an employee can still recover benefits so long as his workplace injury constitutes another major cause. For example, suppose that an employee had degenerative disc disease that caused him to experience significant back pain.  Nevertheless, he was able to perform at a job that involved heavy lifting. One day, a co-worker threw a heavy box to him and he immediately felt an increase in his level of pain. Since that time, he has been unable to work. The fact that the incident with the box resulted in an increase in the employee’s symptoms makes him eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.


Bodily injuries include problems due to repetitive work as well as disease. Heart attacks, even when brought on by stress, are also considered to be physical, rather than emotional, injuries. Common problems resulting from repetitive work include carpal tunnel, tendonitis and back pain. If the disability arose out of repetitive work, then the date of injury is considered to be the last day that the employee worked.