Articles Posted in Work Place injuries

All Massachusetts weekly workers’ compensation benefits are based off of the average weekly wage of the injured worker.

How Is Average Weekly Wage Figured?

The calculation of average weekly wage is always based upon the employee’s gross earnings. If the employee has worked a full year prior to the injury, one averages the full 52 weeks prior to the injury. These gross earnings include such things as bonuses, vacation time, overtime, and commissions. The value of fringe benefits, such as health insurance, are not added in to the earnings. Total earnings in the 52 week period are divided by 52 to get the average weekly wage. If an employee has worked less than 52 weeks, the number of weeks actually worked will be divided into the gross earnings. For workers who have worked only a very few weeks, the calculations for average wage may be based upon a fellow employee who had worked for the same employer doing the same work for a longer period of time. A list of the maximum weekly compensation rates over the past ten (10) years is found below.

MAXIMUM RATES
Injury On or After Maximum Weekly Benefit
10/1/03
10/1/04
10/1/05
10/1/06
10/1/07
10/1/08
10/1/09
10/1/10
10/1/11
10/1/12
10/1/13
10/1/14
10/1/15

$884.46
$918.78
$958.58
$1,000.43
$1,043.54
$1,093.27
$1,094.70
$1,088.06
$1,135.82
$1,173.82
$1,181.28
$1,214.99
$1,256.47

What If I Work More Than One Job?

In cases where an employee has more than one job, his wages from both jobs can be included in the computation for workers’ compensation if both jobs are jobs covered by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation system. This essentially means that both jobs must be ones that are for legitimate employers who are deducting taxes from the employee’s wages and reporting income to the government, and have a policy providing workers’ compensation coverage. This situation is called concurrent employment and can substantially increase weekly benefits to the injured employee.

Section 34/Temporary Total Disability Benefits

In Massachusetts, workers are entitled to weekly temporary total disability benefits if they are unable to perform any job. It should be noted that inability to do one’s former job is not necessarily enough. Continue reading

There are many factors that determine the Lump Sum settlement value of a Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation claim. Some Massachusetts’ workers compensation claims may have no settlement value at all, while some may have a settlement value of several hundred thousand dollars (or more).  While it is important to stress that each individual workers’ compensation claim must be evaluated individually, there are some important factors that determine if a claim has settlement value, and if so, the amount of that settlement value.

Each state administers its own individual system of workers’ compensation benefits. In Massachusetts, the workers’ compensation system is known as what is commonly referred to as a “wage loss” system. That is, if a work related injury or medical condition causes a period of disability from work that also causes wage loss, then the injured worker is entitled to weekly wage loss benefits.  It should be noted that not all work related injuries (even if the injury prevents the injured worker from returning to the previous occupation that they were performing while they were injured) cause a wage loss. For example, a forty five year old employee with a master’s degree in computer science is laid off from his job as a computer software programmer where he was paid $78,000.00 per year, or $1,500.00 per week.  In order to pay his bills while he looks for another job in the computer software field, he takes a job in the construction industry as a laborer.  While working as a laborer, he strains his back.  Although the injury isn’t serious enough to cause him to need back surgery, the injured worker is permanently disabled from working as a laborer where he was earning $1,000.00 per week. His treating doctor is of the opinion that he can return to work at a sedentary or light duty job.  Because he is capable of earning more money as a computer software programmer, an occupation he is trained for, physically able to do, and pays him more money than the laborer job, he has no wage loss and would not be entitled to any weekly workers compensation after the point in time where his doctor cleared him to return to light duty work.  Continue reading

Injured workers in Massachusetts who are eligible for Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation benefits may be required by the insurance company and/or their employer to submit to an examination by a registered physician.  This requirement is pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 152, Section 45.  The workers’ compensation insurer and/or the employer must pay for this examination.  This examination is typically scheduled by a workers’ compensation insurer at either the outset of the claim (just after the injury has occurred) or at a point in time where the insurer wants to either terminate or reduce weekly disability payments to the injured worker.  Many questions and issues typically arise for an injured worker when they receive a notice of an IME examination from the workers’ compensation insurer or their employer.  Here are some important things to know about the IME exam: Continue reading

On May 7, 2012 Sylbert Stewart fell from the edge of a dipping tank into a pool of chemicals, while cleaning the top of ventilation ducts in the course of his employment at the Belmont metal finishing factory where he has been employed for fourteen years. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited his employer for three separate violations in connection with the incident. Mr. Stewart sustained second and third degree burns from his thighs to his feet, and doctors removed skin from his back, chest, and arms for skin grafts to wrap around his legs.

Mr. Stewart received temporary total disability benefits through the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system, which pays 60 percent of his wage loss, and the full cost of medical treatment. However, he did not receive compensation for the scarring on his legs, which covers 38 percent of his total body surface. Currently, in order to be compensated for permanent scarring under the Massachusetts Workers Compensation Act a worker’s blemish has to be on the face, neck, or hands. Thus, if workers are disfigured on their arms, legs, or torsos they do not receive compensation. The disfigurement portion of the Act is obviously pro employer and insurer, which simply fails to take into account the burden it places on the daily life of an employee, like Sylbert Stewart. Continue reading

The injured employee in the case of James McDonald v. Brand Energy Services, Inc. was a union laborer who had worked and been injured at work several times dating back to 1991.  In fact, the employee had injured his back four separate times prior to this particular work injury.   With each of the four prior work-related back injuries, the employee received lump sum settlements.  His last injury in which he received a lump sum settlement came in the year 2001.  Approximately three years after his last work related injury he returned to work against the advice of several doctors in 2004.  While employed he did not complete heavy-duty tasks but he did cope with daily pain by taking pain medication while completing lighter assignments. Continue reading

  Beginning April 1, 2015 Massachusetts will extend employment protections to domestic workers.   The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will create new legal obligations for individuals or families who employ domestic workers including nannies, housekeepers, caregivers, and other domestic workers.   The new law will create a number of new rights that will improve conditions for domestic workers such as a statutory right to privacy and how a live-in domestic worker may be terminated.   Also, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights definitively clarified that some existing state laws do extend to domestic workers.   Included among existing Massachusetts laws that will extend to domestic workers are Massachusetts’ workers compensation benefits. Continue reading

In September of 2014, Massachusetts received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to enforce activities centered on worker misclassification detection.   The Massachusetts wage and hour laws allow workers who have been misclassified as independent contractors to bring lawsuits seeking monetary compensation against their employers.  Those employers who have wrongly classified their employees as independent contractors are obligated to provide workers’ compensation benefits to those misclassified employees who are injured during the course of their employment.

The Massachusetts independent contractor statute makes it difficult for an employer to classify a worker as an independent contractor.  Employers who misclassify an employee as an independent contractor may be subject to triple damages in accordance with Massachusetts wage and hour laws. Continue reading

  Perhaps the most common reason why injured workers seek out a workers’ compensation attorney is because their employer’s workers’ compensation insurer is refusing to authorize and pay for medical treatment that their treating physician is recommending.  Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits provide for 100% payment of any and all medical treatment that is deemed to be reasonable, necessary and causally related to a work injury.  However, it is very common for workers’ compensation insurance companies to  either deny medical treatment or intentionally not respond to your doctor’s requests for medical treatment.  One possible reason for this is because many injured workers give up, try to use their health insurance (so the workers’ comp insurer doesn’t pay) and never get a lawyer to guide them through this difficult process.  Quite simply, although workers compensation insurers have laws and rules that they must follow in administering claims, they will do everything within those laws and rules (and sometimes outside of them) to frustrate injured workers so that they won’t seek medical treatment that they require. Continue reading

After you have been injured at work and need medical treatment, often times you will be contacted by your employer’s workers compensation insurance company or a nurse who works for the workers’ compensation insurer for the purpose of them trying to steer you to a certain doctor for medical treatment.  If this happens to you, you should be very concerned about the intentions of the workers’ compensation insurance company.  If you are receiving a weekly disability check from workers’ compensation, the workers’ compensation insurer does have a financial incentive to get you treated by a qualified doctor so that you can return to work as soon as possible and they can stop paying you your weekly disability benefits.  However, some workers’ compensation insurance companies try to steer injured workers to certain doctors because they know the reputation of the doctor is such that he is more likely to recommend medical treatment that is less costly to the insurance company, such as ordering conservative medical treatment such as physical therapy or injections instead of surgery.  Workers’ compensation insurance companies also are known to steer injured workers to certain doctors who are known to either not write disability letters for their patients (which are required in order for an injured worker to continue to receive a weekly disability check) or are likely to clear an injured worker to return to work well before that injured worker is actually physically capable of returning to his or her job (thus enabling the workers’ compensation insurer to stop weekly disability payments to the injured worker). Continue reading

PART 1 of 2

Despite Massachusetts’ law mandating nearly all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, many Massachusetts’ employers choose to fraudulently conduct business without workers’ compensation insurance coverage in order to increase profits while passing the cost of work-related injuries on to injured workers, their families and taxpayers.  There are several potential avenues of compensation for an employee who is injured during the course of his employment with an uninsured employer.   Injured workers can file a workers’ compensation claim for wage loss and medical benefits with the Commonwealth’s Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund.  A claim for workers’ compensation benefits should be filed against a general contractor who hired the uninsured employer, if one can be identified.  Additionally, an injured worker may also bring civil, or “third party” claims against his or her employer, a general contractor and/or any other third parties that may have caused or contributed to the employee’s injury.

Workers’ Compensation Claim

Workers’ Compensation claims involving uninsured employers are governed by the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, 452 C.M.R. 3.04.  The first step an employee’s attorney must undertake is to file an “Insurer Request Certification” with the Department of Industrial Accidents in order to verify that the employer did not carry workers’ compensation insurance on the date of the work injury.  This form, which can be downloaded at the DIA’s website, certifies to the DIA that the employee and employee’s attorney has attempted to contact the employer to verify whether the employer did in fact have a workers’ compensation policy in effect on the date of the accident.  After this has been filed, the DIA Trust Fund should contact the employee attorney requesting that the employee complete and sign a Form 170 (Affidavit of Employee in Application for Trust Fund Benefits).  Once the Form 170 has been filed, the employee is then allowed to file his or her claim (Form 110) for workers’ compensation benefits.   Continue reading

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