Many jobs in Massachusetts require work with machines. In fact, the job shortage in America generally has been associated with the fact that workers are losing jobs to machines. However, many workers continue to work with machines to get their job done. These are workers who work in agriculture, meat, manufacturing and packaging, among other industries. One of the main problems with working with machines is that machines are not only prone to breaking, they’re prone to malfunctioning and they are sometimes made with defects.
Recently a jury in Oregon awarded over $6 million to an Oregon agricultural worker who was crushed into an inch wide space in a hay bale-cutting machine. Tragically, he was left paralyzed. This was a case where the manufacturer was found 60% responsible and the worker was found 40% responsible because he didn’t press a button that would have stopped the machine from moving while he was inside. Problems with machines extend to people working in cities like Boston and the surround areas, too, though the types of machines may be different.
In Massachusetts, this kind of traumatic machine injury might be covered by workers’ compensation. If injured, you may also have a claim against entities responsible for a defect in the machine, but workers’ compensation would be the exclusive remedy against your employer, unless there was serious and willful misconduct on the part of the employer.
Among the benefits you might be able to claim if you suffer a traumatic injury from a machine, depending upon the facts of your particular situation are: medical care and payment of your medical bills, compensation during the time you aren’t able to work called temporary incapacity benefits, permanent incapacity benefits that partially replace lost wages, loss of function and disfigurement benefits, vocational rehabilitation, disability benefits and death benefits.
You cannot bring a lawsuit against your employer if you receive any of these workers’ compensation benefits after a traumatic injury at work. However, like the man paralyzed in the hay bale accident, you might be able to file a lawsuit against other parties.
In order to claim workers’ compensation benefits, you must show that the injury was work-related. That is, you might have a more difficult time showing it was work-related, if you snuck back to work and used the machine without your employer’s consent for a personal project during off-hours. If you were doing something on a machine that benefited your employer and you were injured, even if it was on your lunch break, you can probably show your injury was work-related and you deserve benefits. Similarly, if you are severely injured at a company picnic or party, you may be covered by workers’ compensation for that injury.
In the example of the hay bale injury described above, the employee was partly at fault. If that had happened in Massachusetts, would an employee be covered when the employee himself had made a mistake that partly contributed to his injuries? If you were hurt while breaking a company rule or performing an act your employer prohibited, the injury might still be covered by workers’ compensation. The idea behind protecting workers in these situations is that you do not have the right to you’re your employer for work-related injuries, but in exchange, the injuries you suffer will be covered by workers’ compensation even if you were partly at fault. Contact the experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates for a free consultation at 617-367-0880 or contact us via our online form.