By: John J. O’Day Jr. | Partner
Massachusetts has had Worker’s Compensation laws since 1912. The law was designed to distribute benefits on a “no fault” basis. Thus, it does not make a difference whether an employee is negligent or an employer is negligent in order for a work place injury to be compensable. Almost all employers are required to pay for the insurance and in return they are granted immunity from civil suits from their employees. Each case is different, but they all come under the same law, Mass. General Laws Chapter 152. Below is some basic information to help understand Massachusetts Workers Compensation and how it works.
If I cannot work due to a covered injury when do I become eligible for benefits?
You are eligible for either temporary total disability benefits (Section 34) or temporary partial benefits (Section 35) as long as you are incapacitated from doing your job for over five (5) calendar days. Benefits will be paid from the sixth (6th) day of disability. If disability extends beyond 21 days then you should receive benefits retroactively for the first five (5) days of disability. Once an insurer receives a First Report of Injury they must either pay or deny the claim within fourteen (14) days.
If I cannot work due to a covered injury, what benefits am I entitled to?
Under Section 34, a worker who is temporarily totally disabled is entitled to receive sixty percent (60%) of his/her average weekly wage which is based on the fifty-two (52) weeks of earnings at that employer prior to the injury. A partially disabled worker would be entitled to receive sixty percent (60%) of the difference between his/her average weekly wage and the lesser amount they were earning due to the injury. There are maximum and minimum weekly compensation rates. The current maximum weekly compensation rate is $1,214.99 while the minimum weekly compensation rate is $243.00.
Who pays for medical bills?
The insurer must pay for all reasonable, necessary and related medical expenses. This includes prescriptions and travel costs. However, insurer’s are not required to pay more than the DIA rates.
Can I choose my own doctor?
Yes, you can choose your own doctor although you may be required to initially go to a medical facility that you employer has chosen.
How long can I collect temporary total disability?
You can collect temporary total disability for a maximum of three (3) years.
How long can I collect temporary partial disability?
You can collect temporary partial disability for a maximum of four (4) years.
What if my injuries are so serious that I cannot return to my old job or any other gainful employment?
Section 34A provides that a permanently and totally disabled employee can stay on worker’s compensation benefits so long as the disability continues.
What if I am permanently partially disabled?
There is no provision for payment of weekly permanent partial benefits.
Are there any benefits for scarring, disfigurement and permanent losses of function?
There are specific benefits enumerated in Section 36 that provide for payment for various permanent losses of function and disfigurement. Although, they are generally lower than most people’s expectations.
Can I recover for pain and suffering?
There is no provision in the Worker’s Compensation Law for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. These types of damages are only recoverable in a third party law suit which is a claim against someone other than your employer or fellow employee whose negligence caused your injury while you were working.
Can I be terminated by my employer while I am out of work and receiving worker’s compensation benefits?
Although an employee cannot be terminated if he/she has filed a Claim for worker’s compensations benefits, an employee can be replaced by that employer.
What is a Lump Sum Settlement?
A Lump Sum Settlement is an agreement where the insurer pays the employee a lump sum of money in exchange for the employee basically giving up his/her right to make a Claim for most worker’s compensation benefits in the future. If liability has been assumed or imposed to the insurer by a Decision, the insurer is still liable for future reasonable, necessary and related medical expenses.
Benefits may be paid regardless of fault, but not without some difficulty. Therefore an injured worker should consult an experienced attorney to better understand his/her rights. The sooner this is done the better because both the insurer and the employer have sources of advice at their disposal and so should the injured worker. If you have any questions or would like assistance with a workers compensation claim, please call the attorneys at Wynn & Wynn, P.C. 1.800.852.5211 or request a free consultation.