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Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

When a worker is hurt on the job, there are several types of benefits to which he or she may be entitled under Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws. These typically include medical expenses, temporary total or temporary partial disability payments, and permanent total or permanent partial disability benefits.

Unlike tort cases arising from accidents caused by negligence outside the workplace (a car accident, for instance), a worker is not “made whole,” economically speaking, in workers’ compensation cases. In other words, a worker does not receive total replacement of his or her lost wages, only a percentage thereof.

A recent case addresses the calculation of some of these benefits.

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Workplace injuries can happen in many different ways. Heavy lifting can cause a back strain or even a herniated lumbar disc. Repetitive motion can trigger carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar nerve entrapment. A slip and fall accident on a wet floor can cause a broken arm or leg.

If a work injury results in an employee being unable to do any kind of work at all, he or she qualifies for permanent and total incapacity benefits. If an employee can still work but loses a portion of his or her earning capacity because of a work-related injury or illness (including an injury that causes the employee to change to a job that pays a lower wage or an illness that prevents the worker from working the same number of hours per week), he or she is entitled to partial incapacity benefits for up to 260 weeks.

In some cases, the employee and the employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance carrier) may disagree as to the extent of an employee’s disability. When this happens, the first review of the case is usually by an administrative law judge. A reviewing board may then look at the case and, after that, the court of appeals.

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Those who are injured on the job have a legal right to seek workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and at least partially offset lost wages. If a particular work injury results in a permanent disability, a worker may also file a claim for incapacity benefits.

Of course, the benefits are not automatic, and the plaintiff must comply with all of the procedural requirements set forth under Massachusetts law. Even then, there is the possibility that he or she may be met with opposition from the employer or its insurance company, especially with regard to the issue of permanent disability.

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Workers’ compensation laws are designed to give those who are hurt at work a less contentious path toward benefits (such as disability payments and medical expenses) than a traditional personal injury lawsuit, in which the plaintiff would have to prove that the defendant was negligent in order to recover compensation.

However, certain procedural requirements are still in place, and the burden remains on the plaintiff to prove his or her case.

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The existence of a pre-existing condition can be an important factor in a workers’ compensation case, but a pre-existing condition, in and of itself, does not necessarily mean that the matter will be resolved in the employer’s favor.

Under Massachusetts law, the work injury does not have to be the predominant cause of the injury for which the worker seeks workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, the decisive consideration is whether the work-related injury was a major cause of the worker’s disability.

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Workers who are injured on the job are entitled to compensation in the form of payment of medical expenses and partial reimbursement of lost wages (in the form of disability payments). Even after a case has been settled, there is the possibility of pursing additional benefits under certain circumstances.

This is different from other types of personal injury cases, such as automobile accident lawsuits. In most tort cases, once a final settlement or judgment is reached, the plaintiff is without a further remedy.

Of course, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove entitlement to further workers’ compensation benefits, and insurance companies typically resist paying additional benefits without a fight.

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When an employee is injured due to a work-related accident, the employee may be entitled to several forms of workers’ compensation benefits. These include medical care at the employer’s expense, temporary disability benefits, and, in cases involving more serious injuries, permanent disability benefits.

Of course, the burden is on the employee to show that he or she is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals was called upon to determine whether an employee who had been receiving benefits due to a work injury was still disabled because of the accident that happened on the job or whether something else was to blame for his ongoing disability.

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Trial judges can sometimes reach different outcomes in cases involving similar issues, such as those involving workers’ compensation disputes and subrogation liens filed by insurance companies.

In a recent case, the state’s highest court was faced with two cases in which trial judges had rendered very different decisions in cases involving basically the same issue. It was up to the high court to reconcile the lower courts’ decisions and provide guidance to those facing similar issues in the future.

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Considering that workers’ compensation laws are specifically designed to simplify the process by which an injured worker receives benefits (such as payment of medical expenses or temporary total disability) due to an on-the-job injury, a surprising array of issues can arise.

For instance, sometimes there is a dispute as to whether the worker was an actual employee under the law. Disagreements can also arise as to which of multiple “employers” must pay a claim.

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Massachusetts voters may recall Question 4 on the 2014 election ballot last November, regarding whether or not employees should be able to earn and use a certain amount of sick time per year. Although the question was opposed by several business organizations and chambers of commerce, the measure passed and is now law.

Effective July 1, 2015, those who work for businesses employing 11 or more workers can earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time annually. Those who work for smaller companies can earn the same amount of sick time, but the hours will be unpaid.

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