Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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In a recent and unprecedented MA workers’ compensation case, a hospital employee was injured at work after learning of an upcoming promotion, but cannot receive benefits based on the higher wage. According to an administrative judge, the employee’s promotion was an absolute certainty, and the worker’s comp benefits should be calculated based on the new wage. However, the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) reviewing board appealed that decision, stating that, “It is the position held at the time of the accident which governs, not some prospective plan in the future which may or may not come to fruition.”

Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Benefits Traditionally Based on Prior 52 Weeks Average Weekly Wage

The DIA’s decision has prompted a further investigation into the workers’ comp statute and how it addresses such out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. Provisions within the statute allow a hearing judge to deviate from using the employee’s prior 52 weeks in average weekly wage (AWW) calculations when unusual circumstances are present. Unfortunately for this employee, the DIA does not consider this situation to warrant deviation from the traditional rules. According to Administrative Law Judge, William Harpin, “The definition of AWW [cannot] be stretched so far as to cover wages that have yet to be earned in a position not yet held.”

Vikki Harris, a Radiology Service Representative at Partners Healthcare System, had been earning an AWW of $703.56 for approximately one year when she learned of her upcoming promotion to Patient Service Representative. Her new AWW was scheduled to be $730, which was similar to other workers in that position. Less than one week before her scheduled promotion, Harris slipped on a wet floor and fractured her kneecap. The fracture left Harris completely incapacitated and unable to work for months. Although Harris is no longer completely incapacitated, she is still physically unable to go back to work. In this particular case, the employee’s injury prevented her from earning a higher paycheck, but that hasn’t changed the outcome of the ruling.

Under §51 of the MA worker’s compensation statute, a worker’s AWW can be increased if he or she can prove that age or acquisition of skills would have most likely led to a higher AWW on the open labor market. However, according to the DIA, this particular case does not qualify under §51. “A simple promotion well into a career does not qualify as a likely wage increase under this statute,” said Harpin. Additionally, since the initial judge had already determined that Harris was entitled to the higher AWW, he never addressed whether or not §51 applied. Had Harris cross-appealed on such grounds, the outcome may have been different. Continue reading

Employees between the ages of 14 and 24 represent approximately 13% of the work force, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that at any given time, there is an average of 18 million young employees in the United States. The agency reports that, between 1998 and 2007, hospitals treated approximately 795,000 teenagers and young adults for work-related injuries.

Emergency departments receive visits from workers under 25 twice as often as older workers. In 2012 alone, 375 workers under the age of 24 died in a work-related accident. Of these, 29 were under the age of 18. Lack of experience and safety training, coupled with the types of work pursued, are contributing factors to this higher instance of injury and death. Early careers in food service, agriculture, and hospitality are the most common for this age group, and all of these occupations come with an increased risk. The United States Public Health Service has declared its goal to reduce occupational injury rates among teens by 10%, by the year 2020.

Lifting Objects

Approximately 950 workers’ compensation claims involving musculoskeletal injuries are filed annually in the United States. The most common cause of this type of injury is heavy or repetitive lifting. Many young workers obtain positions that require constant lifting of items such as boxes, construction materials, crates, buckets, and pallets. Grocery store clerks and stockers, employees in shipping and receiving, kitchen workers, and dishwashers are all examples of positions that rely on heavy lifting.

Handling Knives

The food service industry hires a large percentage of teens and college students. Dishwashers and cooks handle many different kinds of knives during the course of a shift. In the retail and grocery industries, clerks and stockers use sharp objects to open boxes. Supermarkets often hire inexperienced youth to operate food slicers. These scenarios have a high potential for cuts, lacerations, and even more severe injuries. Approximately 130 cases of a thumb or finger amputation are reported every year among employees under 24. Annually, an estimated 525 young workers’ compensation claims are a direct result of knife mishaps. Continue reading

Every day in the United States, overexertion in the workplace results in thousands of trips to the doctor or emergency room. Overexertion can occur in any type of occupation, from seemingly benign office positions to highly physical construction jobs. Long-term effects can lead to temporary or permanent disability and, consequently, the inability to perform job duties. Even when physical symptoms are not debilitating, victims of chronic conditions often experience some level of depression.

The National Safety Council reports overexertion as the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims in the United States. Some of the most commonly recognized examples of overexertion include carpal tunnel syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders, often referred to as repetitive stress injuries. However, two examples of overexertion that are regularly overlooked are fatigue and dehydration.

Fatigue as a Workplace Hazard

Federal and state laws require employers to provide certain periods of rest for employees, depending on the length of the shift and the type of work performed. Without these necessary breaks, the impact of both mental and physical fatigue can become a workplace hazard. One of the most dangerous effects of fatigue is the inability to think clearly and react quickly and appropriately. This is especially important in occupations that require operating heavy machinery and driving, and for medical professionals and emergency personnel responsible for making life altering decisions. Research shows that employees who work in shifts have are six times more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related accident.

Certain causes of fatigue may be out of an employer’s control, such as detrimental sleeping patterns or the unhealthy lifestyle of an employee. However, the risk of fatigue is commonly increased by certain work-related factors including:

  • Excessive mental of physical exertion without appropriate access to food, hydration, or rest during the workday
  • Work scheduling that goes against the body’s natural bio-rhythms
  • Excessive and continuous cold or hot work environment
  • Monotonous or strenuous workload

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe, healthy work environment. It is important that employers are consistently aware of potential cases of fatigue among employees, as well as any contributing factors. Workplace practices should be managed to minimize the onset of fatigue and maximize healthy work habits. Continue reading

A construction worker passed away this Friday in the second fatal worksite accident in Taunton, Massachusetts in the past three weeks. According to preliminary reports, law enforcement officials were called to a worksite at Myles Standish Industrial Park at approximately 8:50 AM when an individual notified them of a worker with “life-threatening injuries”. The victim has not yet been identified pending family notification.

The Taunton Police Department, who responded to the scene, posted a statement online stating that, “Upon arrival it was determined that an adult male had succumbed to his injuries and was deceased.” The extent and nature of the individual’s injuries have not been disclosed at this time. Law enforcement officials have not indicated the nature of the accident that caused the fatal injuries to the worker.

In addition to the Taunton Police Department, the Taunton Fire Department as well as personnel from the AMR Medical responded to the scene in an effort to save the individual’s life. The worksite, which is located at Charles F. Colton Road, will now face an investigation in an effort to determine what events led to the worker’s death. According to reports, law enforcement officials have remained on scene to continue their investigation. The accident occurred outside of an 800,000 square foot wine and liquor warehouse facility belonging to the Martingnetti Company. The facility spans approximately 115 acres along the Charles F. Colton Road. Representatives from the company have not issued regarding the incident a statement at this time. Continue reading

A building collapse injured six people in Smithfield, Rhode Island early this morning. The building, which had been under construction at the time of the collapse, is property of Bryant University. The steel framework for the structure had already been installed, and the breakdown occurred when these steel beams collapsed forward. The exact cause and nature of the accident is currently under investigation at this time.

Smithfield Fire Chief Robert W. Seltzer stated in initial reports that the department had received a call from the Bryant University construction site at approximately 8:15 AM. The supervisor of the construction site had alerted authorities after the structure collapsed and trapped six workers under the steel beams. The Smithfield Fire and Police Departments both quickly responded to the call, but upon their arrival they decided to call for additional backup. Authorities responding to the scene issued a Level 1 response, which automatically dispatches 5 additional units to aid efforts at the scene of the accident.

The Smithfield Fire and Police Department were able to successfully free the six workers that had become trapped under the steel structure following the collapse. All six individuals were transported to Rhode Island Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Bryant University spokeswoman Elizabeth O’Neil issued a statement following the accident indicating that there were no students or faculty present in the area of the collapse and that the university was cooperating in the investigation. O’Neil went on to say that the accident that took place today would not have an effect on the opening day of classes which are slated to start on September 8th. Continue reading

Six construction workers were injured early Tuesday morning when part of a building at Bryant University suddenly collapsed.

The indoor practice facility, part of the university’s Smithfield, Rhode Island campus, was under construction. At around 8:15 WCVB reports, the building gave way, trapping several workers under beams. Fortunately, all six workers sustained only minor injuries. The 78,000 square foot building has been under construction since May 2015 and was slated to open in 2016. AZ Corp. Construction Management is currently overseeing the building’s construction.

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Two workers were injured last week, one fatally, after falling at a construction site at the Minnesota Vikings stadium. The two workers, who were employees of St. Paul-based Berwald Roofing Co., were working alongside more than 1,200 others at the job site. While performing a “fairly conventional” installation, they fell more than 50 feet. It was unclear at press time whether the two workers were wearing safety harnesses, a requirement for anyone working in certain elevated areas.

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As minimum wage debates ripple across the country, American workers have begun to reevaluate their employment rights. Employers are responsible for adhering to federal and state labor laws that govern minimum wage, overtime pay, holiday pay, family medical leave, discrimination, and harassment. Employees often forego a deeper understanding of these legal guidelines because they trust their employers to follow industry standards and regulations. However, awareness of these laws and what constitutes a violation can empower workers to ensure that their rights are protected. The following is an overview of labor laws specific to Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law

This law regulates minimum wage, minimum hours worked on a daily basis, and standards for overtime work. Massachusetts’ minimum wage became $8.00 per hour on January 1, 2008. Certain positions, such as tipped employees, present special circumstances that require a different minimum wage. Additionally, if an employer fails to pay an employee at least one and one-half times the regular pay rate for overtime (which is over 40 hours per week), that employer is in violation of the Minimum Fair Wage Law.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), a federal law, is very similar to the Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law. FLSA also regulates federal minimum wage requirements and time and a half overtime pay. In work situations where both state and federal laws apply, employers must follow the law with the higher standards. Certain employees in administrative, executive, or professional positions are exempt from overtime pay. To qualify, both a salaries test and duties test must be met. Continue reading

A man who was killed in a construction accident in Taunton on Monday has officially been identified by the district attorney’s office. 48 year old Kevin Miranda was killed when the construction lift he had been working on flipped over at the St. Mary’s School where the labor was taking place.

Miranda was from Somerset and Portsmouth, Rhode Island and had been working for the Taunton based company Skyline Contracting and Roofing at the time of the accident. The company was in the middle of an inspection for the Fall River Diocese for a smokestack located behind a Catholic elementary school in that area. At the time the accident occurred, Kevin Miranda had been operating a construction lift that had been provided to the worksite via NES Rentals. The lift had been positioned on a slope located on the land boundary between the elementary school and the neighboring Morton Hospital. The lift that Kevin Miranda was working on tipped over, causing his death. The extent and nature of his injuries was not made immediately available. Initial reports also did not provide any details on how exactly the lift had tipped over.

Following reports of the accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA) arrived on scene to begin an investigation into the accident. A spokesman for the company, Ted Fitzgerald, indicated that OSHA would be looking into possible evidence that would help them determine the cause of the accident. They are looking to determine if there were any workplace safety violations being committed that could have possibly led to the lift tipping over with Kevin Miranda inside of it. The company employing Miranda, Skyline Contracting and Roofing, has not provided comments on the matter at this time. Continue reading

A worker was killed yesterday after a falling from a construction lift at at a Taunton job-site.

According to OSHA officials and police at the scene, the construction lift was operating on a slope just behind St. Mary’s school, near the property boundary with Morton Hospital. The fatal accident occurred when the lift tipped over, but it is unclear how or why the accident happened. OSHA officials are currently trying to piece together whether safety standards were violated. Ted Fitzgerald, a regional representative for OSHA said that, according to the information he received, the worker was employed by Skyline Contracting and Roofing Corp.


According to OSHA, falls remain at the top of the list of most common cause of injury and death to workers in the construction industry. Nearly 20% of all occupational injuries occur in this type of workplace, with. falls accounting for 35% of deaths, followed by struck by an object (10%), electrocutions (9%), and caught in-between injuries (2%). Considering the statistics, these “fatal four” accounted for more than 55% of all construction worker deaths in 2011.

In addition these ten standards were the 10 most frequently violated and cited by OSHA:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Control of hazardous energy
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Electrical, wiring methods, and equipment component malfunction
  8. Ladders
  9. Machines
  10. Electrical systems design

Falls are especially prevalent in the construction industry; last year, OSHA launched a program to raise awareness of fall hazards and safeguards, called a National Safety Stand-Down. The goal of the program to prevent falls in construction was conducted May 4 – 15, as a voluntary event in which employers talk directly to their employees about fall hazards and reinforce the importance of fall prevention. Participating employers stopped their work and provided a focused toolbox talk on a safety topic, such as ladder safety, fall protection equipment or scaffold safety. Detailed information on the Stand-Down is available here.


By OSHA standards, employers are responsible for ensuring their employees work in a safe and hazard-free environment, and have the proper training and tools to do their job safely as well as identify any dangerous threats to themselves and their co-workers.

When an individual is injured or killed on the job, by law, the employer must report the incident to OSHA for a complete investigation. Additionally in Massachusetts, when a worker suffers a workplace injury, he or she is supposed to be covered by Workers’ Compensation Benefits. These benefits were established to guarantee a worker and his or her family compensation for medical bills, disability payments and lost wages, as well as compensation for permanent injuries, disfigurement, scars, as well as death benefits. Acquiring these benefits can sometimes be challenging, and it is most advised that you speak to a licensed Workers’ Compensation Attorney to discuss your options after you have been involved in a workplace incident.

At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys have nearly five decades of experience handling workers’ compensation and work injury cases. We will thoroughly investigate your work injury case and examine all avenues of recovery for you, including helping you access the finest healthcare available in the Commonwealth. Additionally, we will determine whether other parties are liable for your injury, such as the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment or a negligent contractor, and we can file claims or lawsuits against all responsible parties so that you receive the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one was injured or killed at work, do not hesitate to call one of the seasoned attorneys at Altman & Altman. Our attorneys are available around the clock to assist you and all initial consultations are free and confidential.


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