Have you been fully or partially disabled for five days or more after being injured on the job? If so, you may be eligible for paid medical treatment and compensation for lost wages through the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system.
The program’s rules and regulations are complex. That’s why the Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers of Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., have compiled answers to the following frequently asked questions.
Each case is unique. That’s why it’s important to have a lawyer review your case and discuss your legal rights and options. At Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., we provide free consultations. To learn more, call us today toll free at (800) 367-0871 or complete our convenient online form.
How do I know whether I am eligible for workers’ compensation?
If your injury or disabling medical condition happened as a result of your employment, it’s very likely that you are eligible for workers’ compensation. If you’re not sure whether these factors apply to your case, an experienced Massachusetts workplace injury attorney can help you determine whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for your injury.
What types of injuries does workers’ compensation cover?
Any injury that arises out of and in the course of employment is covered. This includes injuries caused by repetitive activities such as lifting. It also includes cumulative trauma / repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Generally, any injury that occurs at work will be covered unless the injured person was guilty of serious and willful misconduct.
Can I get workers’ compensation if my workplace accident was my fault?
Fault is usually not an issue. Unless you were intoxicated, hurt yourself on purpose or while horsing around, or you were hurt by someone angry at you for personal reasons, you are likely to be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for your workplace injury.
What compensation is available if I become disabled?
If you are rendered totally disabled by a work-related injury, you can receive compensation at the rate of 60 percent of your pre-injury wage. Your pre-injury wage will be based on an average of your gross earnings before the injury, including wages from additional jobs you held at the time of your injury. Gross earnings include base wages, overtime, bonuses and shift differentials. Total disability benefits can last for up to three years.
If you are partially disabled, the insurer must pay 60 percent of the difference between your pre-injury wage and your current earnings. Partial disability benefits can last up to five years. Combined, a worker can collect total disability and partial disability for a maximum of seven years.
An injured worker is also entitled to full payment for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to the accident, including the cost of travel to obtain treatment.
If I suffer a work-related injury, do I have to be treated by my employer’s doctor?
For the first 90 days of medical care, Massachusetts law requires you to select from a list of at least six doctors chosen by your employer. (If your employer does not have a list available, you can choose your own doctor.) Your employer cannot legally make the choice for you. You are free to select another doctor on the list if the first choice from your employer’s list was unsatisfactory. The list is usually provided on letterhead from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. After 90 days, although you may be treated by your own doctor, your employer can have you seen by its “independent medical examiner,” or IME. The examinations are supposed to be impartial, but an IME often says what the workers’ compensation insurer wants.
Who pays for workers’ compensation benefits?
Employers pay the cost of workers’ compensation benefits for injured employees or their families. Most employers have insurance that covers the cost of providing workers’ compensation benefits. In Massachusetts, an injured employee may bring a personal injury lawsuit against an employer who did not have workers’ compensation insurance when the employee was injured.
How do I find out the name of my employer’s workers’ compensation insurer?
Massachusetts law requires your employer to display a poster with this information at your workplace. If you can’t find the poster, ask your employer directly. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents has an online tool called the “Workers’ Compensation Proof of Coverage and Verification Search.” Your employer is required to send you a copy of the report about your injury which it makes to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier; the report would also contain this information.
If my employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, how do I get benefits?
In Massachusetts, the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund makes payments to injured workers whose employers failed to obtain workers’ compensation insurance.
Should I hire an attorney to handle my workers’ compensation case?
In most cases you will fare better with the assistance of an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits attorney. Your workers’ compensation benefits case will be heard by a conciliator or administrative judge at the Department of Industrial Accidents. Your employer’s insurance company will be represented by an attorney at the Department of Industrial Accidents. You, too, should have experienced counsel present. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can advise you about the benefits you are entitled to under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law and aggressively represent your interests in proceedings that will determine what benefits you are awarded.
Can I settle my case?
Yes. Workers’ compensation settlements are often reached after negotiation between the injured worker and/or his workers’ compensation attorney and the employer’s insurance company and/or its attorney(s). Under most circumstances, your employer must also agree to the settlement.
My employer’s doctor says I can go back to work, but my doctor disagrees. What do I do?
You can choose not to go back to work if you are not ready. But, the insurance company will probably file a petition to terminate, suspend or modify your workers’ compensation benefits. If your case has been accepted and liability has been established, you will continue to receive benefits until a judge reviews your claim. But during the “pay without prejudice” period (the first 180 days), the insurance company may terminate or reduce your benefits without permission from an administrative judge. Under this circumstance, you will be required to file a claim with the Department of Industrial Accidents.
I went back to work after receiving workers’ compensation, but had to stop working again. Can I still get workers’ compensation benefits?
If you received benefits after a finding of liability, and you returned for work for less than 28 calendar days but had to stop because of your work-related injury, you’re entitled to a resumption of your workers’ compensation benefits. For your payments to resume, you’ll need to promptly tell your insurer and your doctor that you are back off work. You will likely be required to offer evidence from your doctor that your attempted return to work was not successful. Beyond 28 days, an insurance company should still resume benefit payments if you become incapable of performing the functions of your job. An injured worker who returns to work should continue any medical care their physician prescribes. This will provide a “paper trail” of evidence if your return to work is not successful.
What are my rights if my injury was caused by the negligence of someone other than my employer or co-worker?
If you are injured due to the negligence of someone other than your employer or a co-worker (a third party), you may have the right to bring a personal injury lawsuit against that third party. Your right to bring a claim against the third party does not affect your right to receive worker’s compensation benefits.
Is workers’ compensation the same thing as short-term and long-term disability?
Absolutely not. Workers’ compensation is only for injuries or illnesses that occur due to employment. Short-term and long-term disability are for injuries or illnesses that are not work-related.
What happens if I work a second job while receiving workers’ compensation benefits?
Generally, you can still receive workers’ compensation benefits if you work a second job, but the benefits will only cover lost wages from the job you can no longer perform.
How long do I have to file a claim after I am injured?
Under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, a claim must be filed with the workers’ compensation insurer within four years of the date an employee becomes aware of the connection between their disability and their employment. In the case of the death of an employee, the claim must be filed within four years of the worker’s death.
I signed a waiver of claims against my employer when I accepted my job. Did I waive my right to workers’ compensation benefits?
No. Massachusetts law states that no agreement by any employee to waive the right to workers’ compensation will be valid.
I am an immigrant, but I don’t have proper documentation of my right to work here. Can I get workers’ compensation benefits?
Yes. Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits are available to undocumented workers who suffer a work-related injury or illness.
Contact Our Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Benefits Lawyers Today
If you have been hurt in a workplace accident, the Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., can help you obtain the compensation that you deserve. For a free evaluation of your workers’ compensation claim, contact us today online or call us toll free at (800) 367-0871.
For almost 30 years, our workplace accident and injury lawyers have fought for the rights of injured workers in communities across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. We’re ready to fight for you, too.