Answers to Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Law Frequently Asked Questions
As a Workers’ Compensation attorney in Massachusetts, my office represents those who have been injured on the job. Many of these injury victims have questions relating to what their rights are following an accident at work. The following are some answers to some frequently asked questions that I typically field each and every day. While by no means exhaustive, the following questions are those that typically arise on the part of those that are injured on the job.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ Compensation is essentially a statutory framework, which provides for legal protections for those who are injured on the job. These laws are set up so that even if an injured worker is at fault for causing a Workers’ Compensation accident, that worker can still claim entitlement to Workers’ Compensation benefits. It therefore, is a no-fault benefit system. Workers’ Compensation law applies to any and all injuries that arise in the workplace during the course and scope of employment. Common Workers’ Compensation benefits include payment for medical bills as well as lost wages.
Can I sue my employer if I was injured at work?
Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation law specifically prohibits lawsuits against employers stemming from workplace accidents resulting in injuries. There is an exception to this rule in that if a worker is injured while on the job and the accident is due to the fault of a third party that is not related to the employer, then the employee may pursue a third-party claim against that third party. However, in the absence of a potentially liable third party, the injured worker is strictly limited to the rights and remedies provided under the Workers’ Compensation law.
How much can I get in Workers’ Compensation benefits?
If a worker is temporarily totally disabled from working, that individual may collect weekly benefit checks that are tantamount to 60% of the injured worker’s average weekly wage. If the injured worker is partially, temporarily disabled from working, that individual is entitled to collect 75% of the injured worker’s temporary total disability rate.
What is average weekly wage?
Average weekly wage is a critical component of any Workers’ Compensation claim. Average weekly wage is the sum total of wages an injured worker has earned in the past 52 weeks. That grand total from the last 52 weeks is divided by 52, and that number equates to the injured worker’s average weekly wage.
Will my case settle?
Frequently, many Workers’ Compensation claims do settle. They settle by what is referred to by a lump sum settlement. Lump sum settlements are typically found when an injured worker continues to receive weekly Workers’ Compensation benefits, but the injured worker does not intend to return to the employer where he worked at the time of the accident. In that event, a lump sum settlement may be a good option for the injured worker. If a lump sum settlement is settled with liability, that means the insurance company, for the rest of the employee’s life, will be responsible for all reasonable related and necessary medical costs that arise in connection with the injured worker’s injuries. If the lump sum settlement is settled without liability, that means, typically, the insurance company will not pay for future medical treatment. In that event, with a settlement without liability, the Workers’ Compensation insurance company will likely pay all reasonable and necessary medical bills that are accrued up until the time of the settlement.
Are Workers’ Compensation benefits taxable?
No. Neither state or federal taxes are taken out of Workers’ Compensation benefits. The reason for that is that Workers’ Compensation benefits already take into account taxes. So therefore, there is no requirement to pay taxes when one is receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits.
What are some common types of Workers’ Compensation accidents?
These workplace injuries can arise in a multiple of circumstances. Typically, they arise with Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, and any and all other potential contexts in which an injured worker may suffer injuries on the job.
Do I need to get a lawyer if I was injured at work?
It is always wise to at least consult with a Workers’ Compensation attorney in Boston because that way, the attorney can give you the full panoply of rights and remedies to which you may be entitled to collect. Without speaking with an attorney, you really don’t know what rights and remedies are available to you. Therefore, it really makes good sense to consult with an attorney so that you may make the best possible legal decision for your case. Additionally, you likely don’t have experience with handling Workers’ Compensation cases. Therefore, retaining an attorney who is competent and experienced in this arena can pay large dividends to you with your case.
What if my employer does not have Workers’ Compensation insurance?
This happens quite a bit. If your employer does not carry any type of Workers’ Compensation insurance, then you’re not without remedy. In that situation, a claim can be made with the Massachusetts Trust Fund, which is a department within the Department of Industrial Accidents. This is a branch of the Department of Industrial Accidents that handles cases in which there is no Workers’ Compensation insurance. This trust fund will pay out on meritorious claims and additionally will pursue penalties against any and all employers in Massachusetts who are caught by not following Workers’ Compensation laws and requirements.
Where can I learn more about this area of law?
The entirety of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation laws and regulations are found at Chapter 152 of Massachusetts General Laws.
Can I get pain and suffering for a work injury?
Generally, no. If there’s no third party to pursue for a work injury in Massachusetts, then you’re limited to Workers’ Compensation rights that you have against your employer, and in that situation, you may not pursue a claim for pain and suffering for your work injury.
What can I expect in court with my case?
There are three principal stages of a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation claim that’s been filed in court. The first stage is a conciliation. This is a meeting between you and the attorney for the insurance company. Also present is a conciliator who works for the Department of Industrial Accidents. If you have an attorney, that attorney will handle the conciliation on your behalf. What happens in the conciliation is that the parties present the claim to the conciliator, and the conciliator decides if there’s enough proof to justify sending the case on to conference. If the conciliator does find sufficient proof to send the matter forward, then the claim will be sent forward to conference.
A conference is a preceding in front of a judge. At this point, it really makes good sense to have an attorney on your side because this is a formal court preceding in court with the judge present.The conference entails the attorney for both the employee as well as the insurance company attorney presenting the facts of the case to the judge. The judge will decide which party wins at conference. Either party, whether they win or lose, may file an appeal of the conference order, which issues a few days after the conference is held.
The next stage in the hearing, if the conference order is appealed, is a hearing. The hearing is essentially an informal trial that is held between the parties and presented to the judge. It is a preceding in which the parties present evidence, testimony, and documents to the judge. Then, the judge will, a few months later, render his or her decision considering what was presented to him or her during the hearing. Either party may appeal the hearing decision. The next judicial step is a review of the case by a panel of judges called the Reviewing Board.
If the insurance company is contacting me, should I speak with them?
No. It is never a good idea to contact a Workers’ Compensation insurance company. The reason for that is that the insurance company may try to trick you into signing paperwork, which can result in you forever waiving rights to which you are entitled. They frequently will send an injured victim forms to sign. By signing those forms, you may be completely limiting the rights to which you are entitled under Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation law.
What injuries are covered by workers’ compensation?
Workers’ Compensation law in Massachusetts covers any and all injuries that arise at the workplace during the course and scope of employment. These injuries can be physical, emotional, or mental injuries. As long as there is a causal connection between the workplace and the occurrence of the injury and that the injury arose during the course and scope of one’s employment, then a viable Workers’ Compensation claim may be pursued.
If you or anyone you know needs the assistance of a Boston Workers’ Compensation attorney, please contact today the Law Office of Christopher Earley at 617-338-7400 for your free, no-obligation consultation. Additionally, be sure to request your free copy of our book entitled, The Truth About Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Accidents. This book was written to help you, the injured victim, make the best possible decision for your claim.
Answers to Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Law Frequently Asked Questions