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Accidental Disability Retirement

Pursuant to G.L. c. 32, Section 7, applicants for accidental disability benefits must establish by substantial evidence, that they are totally and permanently incapacitated from performing all of their duties “as a result of a personal injury sustained or hazard undergone while in the performance of his/her duties." A certificate from a medical panel affirming the total and permanent disability is required. See Retirement Board of Brookline v. CRAB, 33 Mass. App. Ct. 478, 484-485 (1992). The medical panel’s function is to determine “medical questions which are beyond the common knowledge and experience of the local board (or the Appeal Board)." Malden Retirement Board v. CRAB, 298 N.E. 2d 902, 1 Mass. App. 420 (1973).

In Robert Carraggi v. Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, CR-05-83, January 5, 2006. In Carraggi, the Petitioner filed for accidental disability retirement benefits arising out carpal tunnel injuries resulting from his work as a toll collector. At the time of his filing, Carraggi was receiving worker’s compensation benefits from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority pursuant to G.L. c. 152. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority’s Employee Retirement Board denied Mr. Carraggi’s claim for accidental disability retirement benefits on the grounds that his physician’s statement was incomplete and that Carraggi did not provide sufficient evidence to meet the causation standard. The magistrate noted that Carraggi was receiving worker’s compensation benefits and ruled that Carraggi, through his Physician’s Statement supporting the claim, made a “threshold showing of entitlement to have a medical panel evaluation in accordance with the requirements of M.G.L. c. 32, s. 7(1)."

What’s more, Mr. X's has undergone two arthroscopic shoulder procedures, a carpal tunnel release, multiple cervical epidural injections and numerous physical therapy treatments. Without question, Mr. X's diagnosis is medically complex, that is to say, “beyond the common knowledge and experience of the local board (or the Appeal Board)." In fact, the Norfolk County Retirement Board’s Decision suggests the same with its October 26, 2005 statement, “the permanency of alleged work injury is questionable." [1] Obviously, if the Board can not ascertain on its own whether Mr. X’s injury is permanent, the issue must most certainly be “beyond the common knowledge and experience of the local board. " Consequently, the law requires that a medical panel be convened. Malden Retirement Board v. CRAB, 298 N.E. 2d 902, 1 Mass. App. 420 (1973).

Finally, as with the Carraggi case, Mr. X’s Physician Statement also supports his claim for accidental disability benefits. On August 24, 2005, Dr. Weiner, a neurologist with the same qualifications as those medical experts whom would be convened on a c. 32 medical panel, answered yes to all three standard Physician Statement questions: “is the applicant mentally or physically incapable of performing the essential duties of his or her particular job; is said incapacity likely to be permanent; and is said incapacity such as might be the natural and proximate result of the claimed personal injury sustained or hazard undergone in the performance of the applicant’s duties and on account of which this disability retirement is based." In an accompanying narrative medical report dated January 14, 2005, Dr. Weiner opined that Mr. X has reached maximal improvement and that he will continue to require pain management for his significant pain symptoms. Further, Dr. Weiner stated that Petitioner is disabled from performing the essential duties of a custodian and that his diagnosis and disability are causally related to the work injuries of August 28, 2000 and August 29, 2001. These statements by Dr. Weiner are enough to make a threshold showing of entitlement to have a medical panel convened.

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