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Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

Most people are at least vaguely aware that there are deadlines for filing a claim in a Cape Cod work injury case. The particulars of those procedural rules, however, are not as widely understood. As the following case indicates, sometimes the statutes of limitations can even be a matter of dispute, due to the unique facts of a given case.

If you or someone in your family has been hurt at work, it is best to talk to a lawyer right away. A knowledgeable work injury attorney will talk to you about the details of your accident and advise you of the procedure for protecting your claim and your legal rights.

Waiting too long to take legal action can result in total forfeiture of an otherwise valid claim, so it important to understand the necessary steps in your particular case. It is important to note that, while there are general statutes of limitation for workers’ compensation cases, the circumstances of your particular case may alter that general timeline. This is especially true in cases involving product injury, injuries out of state, and accidents that were caused by the negligence of a governmental entity.

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A typical Cape Cod workers’ compensation case involves several different types of benefits, including medical care, temporary disability, and permanent disability. The determination of what is due an injured worker in a particular case can be a complex process. Oftentimes, there is a great amount of disagreement between the injured worker and his or her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company regarding the benefits that are due.

Employees have a right to legal counsel during the benefits determination process. If you have been hurt and are wondering whether you should hire an attorney to represent you in your case, please keep in mind that workers’ compensation attorneys do not charge legal fees up front. Rather, your attorney’s fee will be paid out of any settlement or judgment that you receive, so that the inability to pay an attorney when you are already hurt and out of work is not a barrier.

Facts of the Case

The claimant in a recent (unreported) workers’ compensation case appealed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court was woman who injured her back in mid-March of 2014 while working as a law librarian for a law firm. The plaintiff first sought medical treatment for her back injury in June 2014. She permanently left her employment in December 2014, at which time she was allegedly still suffering from pain, muscle spasms, and swelling. In September 2015, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer filed a complaint to discontinue the claimant’s disability benefits.

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Cape Cod work injuries are common. In order to receive the benefits to which he or she is entitled, the injured employee must take several proactive steps. First and foremost, the worker must give the employee notice of the accident, injury, or work-related illness. A formal claim must also be filed within a set period of time. Having an attorney handle this aspect of the case is wise. After all, the employer and its insurance company are routinely engaged in such matters, and a worker who may be filing a claim for the first time can be at a substantial disadvantage.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case considered by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the plaintiff was a woman who had filed a workers’ compensation claim some years prior. Her claim eventually proceeded to a hearing before the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, which approved a “lump sum agreement” in 2016. Almost two years later, the plaintiff filed a motion asking that she be granted an extension of time in which to file an appeal from the agreement previously approved by the department. An administrative law judge denied the plaintiff’s motion for an extension of time in which to appeal, as well as her motion for reconsideration.

The plaintiff then filed a notice of appeal in the Massachusetts Appeals Court, seeking review of the administrative law judge’s orders denying her motions. The court (through a single justice) treated the plaintiff’s “notice of appeal” as a motion for leave to file a late notice of appeal and denied the plaintiff’s request. The plaintiff then filed documents in a county court, seeking review pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws ch. 211, § 3. The plaintiff’s efforts to have her case reviewed by that tribunal were likewise unsuccessful.

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Massachusetts workers have certain protections under state and federal law. For instance, most workplace injury cases fall under the provisions of Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws. Generally speaking, if a worker’s injury is covered by workers’ compensation, he or she will not be able to file a negligence lawsuit against the employer or a co-worker. While there are some exceptions to this general rule, most such claims are barred under Massachusetts law. A recent case explored this concept.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appeals court case, the plaintiff was a woman who sued her former employer (a bank) and two former co-workers, alleging that she had suffered personal injuries due to the defendants’ creation of a “toxic work environment” and asserting claims for negligent retention and/or supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

The plaintiff opposed the defendants’ motion and moved for permission to amend her complaint to assert a claim for retaliation under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The trial court judge dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint without ruling on her motion to amend. The plaintiff appealed.

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In order to receive Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related injury or death, the person filing the claim must be able to show that the accident that led to the injury or death occurred during the course of the worker’s job duties. Usually, this is an easily resolved issue, but sometimes the particular circumstances of an accident can result in substantial disagreement between the parties as to whether the employee was truly acting in the course of his or her employment.

If the worker’s compensation insurance company denies the claim, the matter will likely proceed to a determination by an administrative law judge; this decision may be further appealed, should either side wish to seek review. If you or someone you know is considering filing a claim for a workplace injury or death, now is the time to speak with a Cape Cod workers’ compensation attorney.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed from the Industrial Accident Reviewing Board, the widow of a man who was killed in an automobile accident sought workers’ compensation benefits on the basis that the decedent (who was the principal of a family-owned business) was killed during the course of business. The defendant insurance company denied the claim. A three-day hearing was held before an administrative law judge. The judge denied the widow’s claim, concluding that the trip during which the decedent was killed was not an undertaking that was in the course of the insured company’s business. The Department of Industrial Accidents’ reviewing board summarily adopted the ALJ’s decision. The widow sought further review.

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Cape Cod work injury cases can be more complicated than they first appear. Sometimes, there is “more to the story” all along, as in a situation in which an injured person may have several legal options resulting from his or her injury – a workers’ compensation claim against his or her employer, a product liability claim against the maker of a dangerous product that was used in the workplace, or perhaps a negligence action against a third party (as in a car accident lawsuit brought by a delivery driver hurt in a crash).

In other situations, the case grows more complex over time, as new developments give rise to additional litigation possibilities.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who was injured in 2013 while working on the premises of the defendant company. At the time, the plaintiff was a working for a temporary employment service, from whom she later collected workers’ compensation benefits due to her injury. After being hired as a full-time employee by the defendant, the plaintiff filed a third-party action against an employee of the defendant’s, whom she alleged negligently caused her injury. The plaintiff also named the defendant in the suit, pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior.

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Most Cape Cod workers’ compensation cases are opened and closed within a few months or, in cases involving more severe injuries, perhaps a few years. Sometimes, however, a particular injury is of such a nature that the case may not be fully resolved for decades.

In a case recently decided on appeal, the original injury happened some 20 years earlier. The insurance company that paid the original claim resisted being held liable for surgery needed by the employee some 14 years later, but both the workers’ compensation tribunal and the appellate court held otherwise.

Facts of the Case

In a Cape Cod workers’ compensation case, there are several things that a claimant must prove in order to recover benefits such as paid medical care and temporary disability benefits. First and foremost, the claimant must be able to prove that he or she was an employee of the entity from which he or she seeks compensation.

This may sound simple enough – either the claimant worked for the defendant, or he or she did not, right? Actually, the question of whether a claimant was an “employee” as that term is defined in the law can be a rather complex issue. If the alleged “employer” is able to show that the alleged “employee” was, instead, an independent contractor, the claimant’s case is likely to fail.

Facts of the Case

Cases involving injuries at one’s workplace can be wrought with many potential complications. For example, a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim might be met with a denial of benefits on the ground that the “employee” was actually an independent contractor.

Under Massachusetts law, independent contractors are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, they may be able to sue their “employer” (the person or business with whom they had a contractual agreement to perform work) for negligence, if the employer’s failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner caused physical harm to the worker.

Often, a negligence case has the potential for a larger amount of money damages if the plaintiff is successful; a workers’ compensation case, however, has the advantage of not requiring the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was at fault in his or her accident.

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Most workers who are injured on the job are entitled to some type of compensation. For example, a Cape Cod workers’ compensation claimant may pursue medical treatment, temporary disability, or permanent disability benefits, depending upon the nature and resolution of his or her injuries.

Some types of workers are limited to benefits under a particular law or statute. This includes members of the state police, such as state troopers. An appeals court was recently asked to review the rights of a trooper who hurt his back while working.

Facts of the Case

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