Simply stated, the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation Statute is a “ No Fault“, wage replacement system designed to pay the injured worker both medical benefits and lost wages during his or her period of incapacity from work. In many cases, an injured worker is also eligible to receive vocational retraining, if their injury at work prevents them from returning to their previous occupation. As a “No Fault“ Statute, the injured worker is not able to sue their employer or co-workers for the civil negligence damages called pain and suffering. While the Workers Compensation Statute was designed to protect interests of the injured worker and his or her family, disputes between the injured worker, his or her employer and the workers compensation insurer often arise, which undoubtedly make an already difficult situation more troublesome.
What are the basic legal rights of an injured worker involved in an industrial or work related accident?
If you have been injured at work, and are unable to earn your full wages for five or more days, or require medical treatment as a result of an accident at work, you become eligible to receive Workers Compensation Benefits. What are the benefits that the injured worker is entitled to receive?
- If you are disabled from work, you are entitled to receive 60% of the gross average weekly wage you earned prior to your injury. This would include overtime wages, bonuses, as well as wages lost from other Employers, if you held more than one job on the date of your injury. If your injury at work results in a total and permanent disability, you will be eligible to receive 66.67% of your gross average weekly wage, as well as a potential annual cost of living increase. If your injury at work results in a partial disability, and your are unable to earn your pre-accident wages, you may be eligible to receive a weekly partial disability benefit. In this case, you would be entitled to receive 60% of the difference between the wages that you earned before and after your accident at work. You are eligible to receive a partial disability benefit even if you are required to find a different job with a new employer, if your present employer could not accommodate your physical limitations.
- If your injury from work requires you to obtain medical treatment, you have the right to treat with the doctor of your choice. You do not have to treat with a physician assigned by your employer or the Workers Compensation Insurer. It should be noted however, that some employers have what is termed a “ preferred provider agreement”. If your employer has such an agreement, this simply requires you have your initial consultation with your employers preferred medical care provider. After this initial consultation, you are then free to treat with the doctor of your choice. It should also be noted that you have the legal right to be reimbursed for all of your expenses related to your medical treatment. This includes mileage, parking and prescriptions associated with your medical treatment.
- If your injury at work results in a Permanent Loss Of Function, or in certain circumstances Scarring or Bodily Disfigurement, you may be eligible for a monetary benefit for these losses, once it has been determined that you have reached what is termed “an end medical result”.
- If your injury at work was as a result of the Negligence or fault of someone other than yourself, a co-worker or your immediate employer, you may have an additional cause of action, or a “ Third Party Negligence” case. Examples include an automobile accident in the course of your employment, a construction site accident when the General Contractor or a Subcontractor was at fault, or a personal injury from a defective or dangerous product or piece of machinery. In a Third Party Negligence case, a civil cause of action can be filed against the negligent party, and may entitle you to civil damages, including pain and suffering, past, present and future lost wages, medical bills, and payment for loss of companionship or society of your family.
- If your injury results in Total Disability for 12 consecutive months or more,( or is expected to), you may have the right to receive Social Security Disability Benefits, in addition to the benefits you are receiving from the Workers Compensation Insurer.
- If your injury at work results in a permanent inability to perform the essential functions of your job, you may be entitled to Vocational Rehabilitation, which can include job placement, retraining or schooling, paid for by the Workers Compensation Insurer.
- If an injury at work results in the death of the of the injured worker, benefits are payable to the surviving dependants. A surviving spouse is entitled to receive 250 weeks of the deceased employee’s Workers Compensation Benefits, as well as annual cost of living increases. The surviving spouse may be entitled to continue to receive the above mentioned Benefits beyond 250 weeks if the surviving spouse has not remarried or is not fully self-supporting. The Workers Compensation insurer is also obligated to pay for burial expenses that do not exceed $4,000.00.