Workers’ Compensation Settlement includes Insurer’s Payment for Service Dog

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Recently, Brendan G. Carney of Carney Law Firm was able to successfully negotiate a lump sum settlement of a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation claim in the amount of $825,000.00.  This settlement was reached on behalf of our client, a forty one year old woman who was working as a bank branch manager when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident while traveling from an offsite bank meeting back to her regular bank office.  The employee suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury that would render her permanently and totally disabled.  In addition to the lump sum settlement, Carney Law Firm was able to obtain an additional $218,000.00 in permanent loss of function benefits.  The employee had received weekly benefits for over three years prior to the settlement. The total recovery for the employee exceeded $1,200,000.00.

Despite the significance of the spinal cord injury, our client was forced to battle the workers’ compensation insurer in court over a period of several years due to the insurer’s denial of reasonable and necessary medical treatment, including therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the traumatic incident, in-home nursing care and payment of a service dog.  The claim for the service dog was denied by the workers’ compensation insurer on the basis that a service dog is not compensable under the Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws.  The claim for the service dog was filed pursuant to M.G.L.A. Chapter 152 Section 30, which requires the workers’ compensation insurer to furnish to an injured worker “adequate and reasonable health care services”.  The workers’ compensation insurer argued that a service dog was not “necessary” and therefore not compensable under Section 30.  The employee further argued that the workers’ compensation statute implies some degree of active effort to bring the injured person the required humanitarian relief.

This claim was litigated through a hearing decision at the Department of Industrial Accidents, resulting in an award of the service dog (including all reasonable and necessary related expenses which include the cost to purchase and train the dog, provide veterinary care, dog food, etc, estimated to cost over $150,000.00 over the course of the employee’s lifetime). Attorney Carney relied on expert testimony to help win the case.  The manager of a world class provider of service dogs testified as to the benefit of a service dog to a person with such severe physical restrictions, the cost to purchase and train the dog, and all other costs associated with the ownership of a service dog.  The Director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital also provided expert testimony regarding the employee’s need for the service dog.

This Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation settlement also includes payment of lifetime medical expenses that are deemed to be reasonable and necessary, which in this claim may include ongoing psychotherapy, physical therapy, pain medication, and home modifications. The settlement was structured in a manner allowing for an increase in other sources of benefits, which include Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Long-Term Disability (LTD).    This lump sum settlement was approved as in the best interest of the injured worker by the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents in May of 2020.

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