Employees who have been hurt on the job in a Massachusetts workplace may be eligible for benefits through the state workers’ compensation system. This is a form of no-fault insurance that most employers are required by law to provide. It is designed to avoid the need for employees who suffer from job-related accidents or illnesses to bring a personal injury lawsuit against their employers. Benefits available through the workers’ compensation system may extend to medical expenses for the treatment of the job-related injury as well as wage loss and, in some cases, additional programs like worker retraining.
Massachusetts workers typically can establish that they qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if they have been unable to perform their job duties for at least five days because of the work-related accident or illness. In some cases, this can consist of an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition that originated outside the job environment but was worsened there. There are several types of benefits for which workers may be eligible. These include permanent and total disability benefits, temporary and total disability benefits, and partial disability benefits.
Permanent and total disability benefits may be available under Section 34A of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law for workers who have suffered from serious harm on the job. They must be unable to perform any type of work, including the duties of the position that they held at the time of the event precipitating the accident or illness. By contrast, temporary and total disability benefits are provided for people who are unable to hold a job only for a limited period. Partial disability benefits are likely appropriate for someone who can perform some job duties, although not to the same extent as before the injury.
The amount of wage replacement provided by permanent and total disability benefits is calculated as two-thirds of the average weekly wage earned by the injured employee during the 52-week period before the onset of the injury or illness. This amount is subject to minimum and maximum limits set by the state of Massachusetts each year in October. The minimum limit is currently set at 20 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. Cost of living adjustments also may be available on an annual basis because a permanent and total disability is expected to last throughout an injured worker’s life. Benefits may start being adjusted for cost of living two years after an individual begins receiving them.
In addition to wage replacement, permanent and total disability benefits provide compensation for adequate and reasonable medical care related to the injured worker’s injury or illness. They also tend to include prescription costs and mileage reimbursement for doctors’ appointments.
Often, an injury or illness that appeared to be something from which an individual would eventually recover and return to work turns out to be permanent. When this happens, an injured employee may be able to transition from temporary and total disability benefits to permanent and total disability benefits. You do not need to wait until the three-year period of receiving temporary and total benefits ends before applying for permanent and total benefits. Instead, the amount may be adjusted at any time that the disability is deemed to be permanent.
It is important to remember that there is a limited time period within which you can assert your right to workers’ compensation benefits after an accident on the job. This lasts four years from the date of the accident or the onset of the illness, or the date that the employee realized that the injury or illness resulted from a workplace condition. It is advisable to take action as soon as possible if you think that you may have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
If you have been hurt at work and are looking for advice on your options, consult the workers’ compensation attorneys at the Carney Law Firm. From our Boston offices, we represent injured employees in many Massachusetts communities, including Lawrence, Lowell, Quincy, Worcester, and New Bedford. Contact us locally at (617) 426-9797, at the Toll Free number (800) 640-2667, or through our online form.
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