Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Massachusetts
Workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts are available for workers who are hurt on the job. It is a benefit that is provided to workers by employers at no cost. Most employers are required to provide these benefits under state law. No one really expects to get hurt on the job, but it happens every single day. While some workplace injuries are obvious, such as a broken bone, there are other injuries that take time to show symptoms. For example, repetitive stress injuries (such as carpal tunnel) and on-going exposure to harsh chemicals or toxins that cause asthma, cancer, or other long-term and often permanent health conditions.
Who Investigates Workers’ Compensation Claims?
The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) is a state agency that oversees the workers’ compensation program. They also adjudicate disputed workers’ compensation claims. The DIA recommends that injured employees consult a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer because of how complicated these claims can be. However, the DIA cannot make referrals to lawyers.
What Benefits Are Available Through Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Program?
There are several workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts. It’s important to remember that they are awarded based on the facts surrounding the claim. In general, they cover all of the medical expenses that are associated with the injury. Workers’ comp also provides wage replacement if the worker is temporarily or permanently disabled from the injury.
For disability benefits, the financial compensation awarded depends on the severity of the disability. In short, whether the worker is partially or totally disabled and whether the disability is temporary or permanent. Permanent disability means that the worker is totally disabled and can never return to the workforce. A temporary disability means that the worker will eventually be able to return to work. Massachusetts law determines how much financial compensation a worker will receive if they are disabled:
- Workers who are totally and permanently disabled will receive 2/3 of their average weekly wage with a minimum 20% of the state average weekly wage at the time of your injury, and an annual cost of living adjustment for as long as you are disabled.
- Workers who are considered temporarily totally incapacitated will receive around 60% of their average weekly wage from the last year prior to the date of injury for up to 156 weeks. Payment begins on the sixth day of disability unless you cannot work for 21 days or more. Those days aren’t required to be consecutive.
- Workers who are considered partially incapacitated may receive up to 60% of the difference between their average weekly wage and what they can earn with their disability for up to 260 weeks.
The most common benefit associated with workers’ compensation is payment of medical expenses. Medical benefits are available for workers who suffer from either a work-related injury or illness that requires medical attention. The medical benefits are provided for as long as the worker needs them because of the injury or illness. However, it’s important to note that the insurance company can deny or end treatment if they don’t think that the treatment is reasonable or necessary. If this happens, a worker may appeal through the DIA. Medical benefits include:
- Medical care
- Reimbursement for what the worker spends out of pocket for prescriptions and treatment
- Reimbursement for mileage for injured workers who must travel to and from their medical appointments
The worker may choose their own medical provider. Additionally, the insurer has the right to have their doctor evaluate the worker.
There is a one-time payment for disfigurement or scarring. If it involves scars, they must be located on the face, neck, or hands. This benefit is in addition to other workers’ compensation benefits, such as medical or disability.
If a worker dies as a result of their injuries or illness, the spouse or child could be eligible for survivors’ and dependents’ benefits as well as having the funeral expenses covered. Children of the deceased worker are only eligible for benefits if they are minors, full time students, or have physical or mental disabilities that make them unable to support themselves. Benefits may include:
- Payment of up to 66% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage, up to the maximum of the state average weekly wage at the time the injury or illness occurred for the surviving spouse
- A cost of living adjustment every two years for the surviving spouse
- Spouses who remarry will receive $60 a week paid for each eligible child. However, this amount may not exceed the total that the spouse received as a benefit before remarriage
- Funeral expenses up to eight times of the state average weekly wage at the time of death
Vocational rehabilitation is another workers’ compensation benefit that can really help injured workers and their families. The purpose is to help the worker be able to return to the workforce. To qualify, the worker must be medically stable, suffer from a permanent functional limitation, and liability must be accepted by the insurer.
Applying for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you were hurt on the job or are suffering from an illness because of your job, you must take steps to start the claims process. First, though, you should get immediate medical care. Even you think you only have a minor problem, you should get checked out. Otherwise, a small problem can get much worse. The worker should inform their employer in writing (and make a copy of the document) that they’ve been hurt. Injured workers have up to four years after they determine that their injury or disability was caused by their job to file a claim with the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
If you were hurt on the job or if your loved one died as a result of an on the job injury, you must take the proper steps to ensure that you’re treated fairly and that you’ll receive the benefits that you need. Take the advice of DIA and make an appointment to talk with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.