What is Workers’ Compensation and how does it work in Massachusetts?

Workers' Compensation provides wage replacement coverage to Massachusetts workers who are injured in on-the-job accidents. Filing a workers' compensation claim can an extremely complicated process. Doing so without the help of an experienced Boston workers' compensation lawyer can be stressful and overwhelming, often resulting in delayed benefits, reduced benefits, or no benefits at all.

Most work-related injuries are eligible for workers' comp benefits, but employers and insurance companies rarely make the process an easy one. With the help of a skilled workers' compensation lawyer, your chances of receiving full benefits in a timely manner are significantly improved. If you've been injured on the job, and are not sure what to do next, give us a call and we will explain what benefits you should be receiving.

Although workers' comp effectively removes the employee's right to sue the employer, third-party claims may still be filed against a vendor or contractor if third-party negligence played a role.

Common Accidents Covered by Workers' Compensation:

Most work-related injuries are covered, even if the injury was the employee's fault. Some of the most commonly-cited workers' comp accidents include:

  • Crane accidents
  • Scaffolding accidents
  • Industrial accidents
  • Construction site blasting accidents
  • Trench and excavation accidents
  • Accidental electrocution

When a worker reports an on-the-job accident, an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will usually follow. If the employer is found to be in violation of OSHA standards, fines and penalties may be imposed. Contact our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers at Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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About Altman & Altman LLP’s Workers’ Compensation legal services.

Workers' Compensation is supposed to guarantee certain benefits to workers who get injured on the job, including coverage of medical expenses, wage replacement, and additional compensation for permanent injuries and death. Unfortunately, receiving these benefits is not always an easy task. With the help of an experienced Boston workers' compensation attorney, your chances of receiving full benefits in a timely manner are greatly improved.

Workers' compensation pays benefits for work-related injuries that result in partial disability, disfigurement and/or loss of function, total disability, permanent disability, and death. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our knowledgeable legal team has an impressive track record of protecting clients from difficult insurance companies and employers. Our attorneys are skilled at negotiating for the highest possible settlements to be paid immediately.

In addition to ensuring you get the full benefits you deserve in a timely manner, Altman & Altman, LLP will fight to get additional benefits when appropriate. For example, if you have suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or a serious burn injury, the "full" workers' comp benefits may not cover all of your costs. Further, if a third party, such as a machine manufacturer or negligent contractor, played a role in your injuries, you may be entitled to additional compensation.

At Altman & Altman, LLP, we will thoroughly examine all details of your case to determine the best method of recovery for your unique situation. We will file claims against any and all negligent parties so that you receive the highest settlement or verdict possible. If you've been injured in a work-related accident and need an experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorney, contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared the death of a worker at a Bellingham Massachusetts used auto parts business as preventable, and the result of a lack of proper safety training.

The employee was inflating a tire while working at John’s Used Autos and Parts LLC when he was struck in the head by a “chain come-a-long” device that is used to mount rim wheels onto tires. The incident occurred on Oct. 31, 2016 and the employee perished from his injuries on Nov. 11.

An investigation into the workplace fatality was launched by OSHA’s Braintree office and found that the employer did not:

Electricity, simply put, is a concentrated flow of electrons from one point to another. Electrocution occurs when we interrupt a closed circuit of electricity by touching it with any uninsulated part of our bodies, most commonly our hands or feet. The high concentration of water in our organs and flesh makes an excellent conductor, so electricity will travel through our bodies as if it were a new part of the circuit.

A high concentration of electricity is not something that our bodies are naturally equipped to handle, and the flow of energy will cause serious and potentially life-threatening harm to the victim. The severity of damage from the shock corresponds directly to the voltage, amperage, pathway and duration of the jolt. If a high-voltage shock travels through a victim’s heart for an extended period of time, such as when a power line worker accidentally makes contact with a high voltage wire, survival is very unlikely.

Electrocution was the second deadliest force for workers in 2014, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2014, 899 construction workers died while on the job, which is over 20 percent of the total worker death count for that year. Of these 899 deaths, electrocution was the second-leading cause of death, responsible for 74 construction worker fatalities.

A contract packaging company based out of Dudley, MA is facing hefty fines from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after their negligence and subsequent actions seriously endangered one of their temporary workers in May of 2016.

On May 26, 2016, an improperly-trained temporary worker for Shield Packaging Co. Inc., which specializes in filling, packaging and shipping products stored in pressurized aerosol cans, was cleaning the filling nozzles along a production line when the equipment unexpectedly turned on, violently piercing his finger with the sharp filling nozzle and “inflating” his arm with pressurized, propellant gas.

The incident alone was gruesome enough, but Shield Packaging truly blundered in their reaction to the horrible accident. The worker’s employers did not even call 911 in the immediate aftermath. The injured employee was the one to initiate a 911 call. After the call was made, the employee was taken in a private vehicle to the hospital where they underwent emergency treatment and was hospitalized.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found a Cincinnati-based food company to be guilty of multiple safety violations that led to a worker having one of his arms amputated below the elbow after an avoidable accident occurred at their factory.

Klosterman Baking Co. now faces close to $150,000 in citations due to their negligence, which involved not enforcing proper safety precautions in the cleaning and maintenance of their machinery. The 28-year-old employee eventually lost his arm after it was injured while cleaning a machine and a conveyor belt with a compressed air wand.

Even worse, the follow-up OSHA investigation revealed that Klosterman Baking Co. continued to expose its employees to the same risks that wound up severely injuring their employee. Even after somebody was seriously injured, they continued to operate without the proper safety precautions and made no attempts to protect other employees from the same potential harm.

Workers’ compensation provides wage replacement and may cover medical expenses if you are injured in a work-related accident in Massachusetts. This is true even if the accident was your fault. These benefits are supposed to be easy to obtain, but that is rarely the case. In theory, you can apply for workers’ comp benefits without an attorney, but the process can be extremely complex and application errors can result in delayed or reduced benefits, or both. Below are five reasons why you should hire an experienced workers’ comp lawyer if you’ve been injured on the job.

Top Reasons to Hire a Lawyer Following a Work Injury

Free Consultation

Most lawyers will consult for free. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our initial consultation is free, and entirely confidential. Whether you decide to “go it alone” or retain legal counsel, a complimentary consultation can give you the guidance and direction you need to move forward with confidence. If you have been injured on the job, contact a MA workers’ compensation lawyer today.

Faster Approval Means Faster Benefits

If your initial claim is denied, you can appeal it, but the appeals process can delay benefits for weeks or months. Why not get it right the first time? By hiring a skilled workers’ comp attorney, your chances of a successful application increase dramatically. This is likely your first time applying for benefits. Experienced attorneys have filled out countless workers’ comp forms. They know what to do, and what not to do. In addition to improved accuracy, a knowledgeable attorney will also remove the burden of meeting deadlines and responding to requests. You are already under a lot of stress, why add to it with paperwork and claim management?

Forms, Forms, Forms

Do you love filling out tax forms? If you do, then ignore these next few sentences. If, like most Americans, you despise filling out tax forms, you probably won’t like this process much more. The language used on workers’ comp forms, lovingly created by government agencies, is rarely clear and to the point. What’s worse – even minor application errors can result in delayed or reduced benefits. In some cases, workers never receive any benefits at all. Lost wages can be financially disastrous, and many families don’t have the luxury of waiting weeks or months for benefits to kick in. Trying to handle the claims process alone can cost you much more in the long run. If you have suffered a work injury, contact a MA workers’ compensation lawyer today.

Claims Experience

When it comes to experience with claims, a skilled workers’ comp lawyer has it. He or she will be able to answer questions with relative ease. No time will be wasted while you try to figure out what information is needed and how to respond to questions. Even more important, if your claim is denied, or any problems arise during the process, you will have an experienced lawyer by your side to quickly, effectively determine the best possible solution. Continue reading

When we are fatigued, even the most routine task can become challenging. But when the task at hand involves heavy machinery, high places, dangerous substances, or getting behind the wheel, fatigue can be deadly. When Massachusetts workers are fatigued they are less productive and prone to making more errors. So it stands to reason that employers wouldn’t want workers to be fatigued. Despite this logic, it’s not uncommon for employers to overwork employees; meeting deadlines and filling orders often take priority. But these short-sighted plans can create dangerous workplace conditions and can be costly for employers.

According to reports, employers lose about $136 billion annually to worker fatigue-related issues. In addition to lost productivity, fatigued workers can quadruple an employer’s workers’ compensation costs due to a higher frequency of accidents and subsequent injuries. Fatigued workers can hurt themselves, but they also put their co-workers at risk. If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today.

Reducing Worker Fatigue

Employers can take steps to reduce worker fatigue, thus improving productivity, and reducing liability and associated costs. To do this they should:

  • Discuss shift schedules with workers and take worker considerations into account.
  • Meet the physiological and sociological criteria of individual workers.
  • Test out different shift rotations for each worker to determine what works best.

Worker fatigue is not a minor concern. It is an issue that puts workers at risk on a daily basis and costs employers millions of dollars annually. If you feel that your workplace conditions are unsafe, report the conditions to a supervisor. If your supervisor does not respond to your concerns, you can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and contact a MA work injury lawyer today.

Signs and Symptoms of Fatigue

Although employers can take steps to prevent worker fatigue, some problems are rooted outside of the workplace. Insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy can all disturb healthy sleep patterns and result in fatigue at work. Excessive alcohol use, some prescription and over the counter medications, and obesity are also contributing factors. The following signs are good indicators that a worker may be fatigued:

  • General tiredness or sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Digestive problems
  • Chronic illness

When are Workers Sleepiest?

According to Alberta Human Resources and Employment, most fatigue-related work accidents occur during third shift hours, between midnight and six a.m. That’s no big surprise. But the one to three p.m. nap time came in at a close second. Fatigue reduces decision making abilities, communication skills, productivity and performance, attention and concentration, memory, reaction time, and a worker’s ability to handle stress. Being excessively tired on the job can also increase a tendency for risk taking, and can result in increased sick time, employee turnover, and overall medical costs. Bottom line – workplace fatigue is expensive. Continue reading

Working in the elements has special risks during every season, but Massachusetts winters can be especially challenging. If you work outside for at least part of the day, it’s crucial to utilize safe practices at all times. The information below addresses some of the most common winter weather-related work injuries and how to avoid them. If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, it’s important that you know what benefits that are available to you immediately and in the long term.

Slip and Fall Accidents

When ice, snow, and freezing rain are a daily occurrence, it’s especially important to take precautions in the workplace. In addition to slippery walkways and parking lots outside, workers can track snow and slush into buildings, resulting in indoor puddles and the potential for slip and fall accidents. Follow the steps below to reduce the risk of weather-related falls at work:

  • Put salt on icy walkways and parking lots and keep them as clear of snow as possible.
  • Inside each doorway, place a non-skid mat to absorb excess snow and slush.
  • When any area becomes slippery – whether inside due to tracked snow or a spill, or outside due to ice or slush – place cones around the hazardous area.

Back Injuries

Whether they are due to excessive shoveling, lifting heavy construction equipment, or slipping on an icy or wet surface,  back injuries are common among workers who are forced to brave the winter elements. The most common winter weather-related back injuries include sprains and strains, fractures, overexertion injuries, and lacerations. To reduce the risk of back injuries at work, follow the tips below:

  • Take frequent breaks when shoveling or lifting heavy objects on the job.
  •  Stretch for several minutes to warm up your muscles.
  • Employers should provide shovels specially designed to reduce back strain.

Cold Weather-Related Injuries

Being outside in below freezing temperatures for extended periods of time can result in serious – even fatal – complications. Hypothermia, frostbite, and cold stress can wreak havoc on the healthiest, toughest workers. Dampness and wind can amplify the dangerous effects of cold weather, and it doesn’t even have to be freezing outside; frostbite and hypothermia can sneak up on you. To prevent dangerous cold weather-related conditions:

  • All workers should be trained on how to protect themselves from temperature-related injuries.
  • When temperatures are low, workers should take frequent breaks in a warm environment to get their internal temperature back to normal.
  • Workers should drink warm drinks throughout the day, such as hot tea, coffee, or hot apple cider.

Work injuries are an unfortunate reality, but we can take steps to dramatically reduce our risk of serious injuries and death on the job. Although all jobs carry some risk, certain occupations – such as construction and roofing, farming and logging, corrections and law enforcement – carry a disproportionately higher risk. In 2015, there were nearly three million reported nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  If you have been injured at work, contact a MA workers’ compensation lawyer today. Continue reading

Every year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a report of the 10 most commonly cited violations for that year. The agency obtains this data from the tens of thousands of workplace inspections it conducts annually. Interestingly, the list remains fairly constant from year to year. Read on for more information about OSHA’s top ten safety and health violations and how you can avoid becoming a statistic in a serious, or fatal, workplace accident.

More than 4,500 workers are killed in a work-related accident annually, and about three million are injured. These numbers are staggering, especially considering that employers are responsible, by law, to provide and maintain safe work environments. The top 10 violations below contribute to the majority of these injuries and fatalities. If you have been injured on the job, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today.

  • Fall protection: Falls are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States, and most of these occur in the construction industry. Without proper protection, such as harnesses and anchors, fall-related deaths increase significantly.
  • Hazard communication: When hazardous chemicals are present, workers have a need and a right to know. Hazard communication refers to the process of identifying hazardous substances, notifying workers of the presence of hazardous substances, and informing workers of protective measures necessary to avoid injury or death when working with, or near, said hazardous substances.
  • Scaffolds: Scaffold violations are often a contributing factor in fatal falls. Considering that about 65 percent of the construction industry works on scaffolds, preventing scaffold violations would dramatically reduce annual injuries and deaths in this industry.
  • Respiratory protection: Exposure to asbestos, chemicals, and other toxic substances can result in long term health problems. Sudden chemical spills can even cause immediate death. Proper respiratory protection is essential to prevent long-term damage and sudden death in an emergency situation. Unfortunately, lack of adequate respiratory protection is one of the most commonly cited OSHA violations.
  • Lockout / tagout: These violations often result in gruesome injuries and deaths from machines that start up suddenly. Lockout / tagout refers to the process of turning machines off and ensuring they can’t be turned back on while being worked on.
  • Powered industrial trucks: Forklifts and powered industrial trucks are responsible for significant injuries and deaths every year. In nearly all fatal cases involving one of these machines, workers were not properly trained on safe operation, or other OSHA violations were a factor.
  • Ladders: Ladder violations often contribute to fall injuries and deaths.
  • Machine guarding: Similar to lockout / tagout, machine guarding refers to the installation of machine guards to protect arms, hands, legs, and feet from injury, amputation, or worse. Failure to properly guard machines is a common OSHA violation.
  • Electrical wiring: It isn’t difficult to understand why electrical violations can spell disaster. Electrocution can be immediately deadly. Therefore, proper precautions and safety training are essential for jobs involving electrical work.
  • Electrical, general: Ditto, above.

Most of the above violations occur in the construction industry. Unfortunately construction is an inherently dangerous field. However, risks and hazards can be dramatically reduced, along with your risk of serious injury and death, when OSHA regulations and standards are followed. If you notice an on-the-job hazard, report it to your supervisor immediately. If your supervisor doesn’t promptly respond to your concerns, you can always contact OSHA. If you have been injured in a work-related accident, contact a Boston work injury lawyer today. Continue reading

LTL freight company, Central Transport, has committed to work on improving their company-wide safety protocols, and to specifically address safety concerns regarding outdated and unsafe forklifts and industrial trucks at over 100 of their terminals in 26 states across the nation.  The commitment to safety changes came after extensive investigations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed many citations and violations of safety standards, totaling $165,400 in total penalties, which Central Transport must pay as part of the agreement. These violations could have caused, and may still cause, crushing or struck-by injuries at these locations.

Central Transport must remove damaged, defective and unsafe forklifts from all of their locations and implement a comprehensive and detailed timetable and a step-by-step list on how they will address safety concerns moving forward.  These steps must be verified by an internal monitor to ensure that the implementation is going according to the agreement. This monitor will make at least 20 checks on terminals across their service area. In addition to an internal monitor, a third party monitor will also made unannounced checks on their terminals and conduct interviews with employees to see if the changes are being implemented.

The violations were noted at Central Transport terminals in 26 states, including the Billerica terminal in Massachusetts. It is now up to each of these states to honor and enforce this settlement agreement to help ensure the safety of its workers.

Proper safety regulations are non-negotiable

Industrial jobs, such as working in a loading dock for a freight company like Central Transport, carry inherent risks for the employees. Any profession that involves heavy machinery, large trucks and massive payloads may pose obvious dangers that could lead to permanent injuries or death.  It is for this reason that all companies that employ workers in potentially-dangerous fields should take the utmost care to ensure that they are doing everything possible to prevent avoidable accidents that can lead to the irreversible harm or death of their employees. OSHA exists to hold companies accountable for this responsibility, and this recent agreement shows why OSHA is important.

Were it not for OSHA investigating and revealing unsafe working conditions, how long would Central Transport have pushed their luck using outdated and hazardous forklifts? Would change only have happened after somebody was hurt, or worse? Now that they have been cited and given the order to update their safety protocols, it will hopefully result in an overall safer work environment for their employees. Continue reading

As of December 15, marijuana will be legal in Massachusetts. Although it will no longer be a crime to smoke pot on your own time, employers aren’t necessarily going to be fond of your perfectly-legal hobby. In fact, employers can still fire, or refuse to hire you, if you smoke marijuana. This is even true if you only partake outside of normal work hours. Here’s the thing – marijuana is still against federal law. For this reason, employers can retain personal conduct policies that prohibit marijuana use and can fire you if a drug test returns positive results.

Each of the eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana have workplace drug policy exemptions. In MA, the law states that “the authority of employers to enact and enforce workplace policies restricting the consumption of marijuana by employees” is not changed. Considering that THC may remain in a user’s system for weeks, it stands to reason that if your employer drug tests – and you wish to keep your job – you may want to abstain from using marijuana, at least for the time being. If you have questions about how the change in marijuana laws will impact you, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

No Way to Measure “Actual” Marijuana Use

Critics of employers who continue to drug test for marijuana say it’s an unfair practice. “It’s the equivalent of firing somebody who drank a glass of wine on Friday evening and then came to work on Monday,” said Tamar Todd, the Drug Policy Alliance’s legal director. He believes zero-tolerance policies should adapt to changing laws. In an effort to develop more accurate testing methods which measure actual marijuana impairment rather than just the drug’s presence, experts are working on Breathalyzer-esque devices. Such a device could be used by employers and, possibly more importantly, by law enforcement to determine if an individual is “too stoned” to drive safely.

Zero-tolerance drug testing can also be a challenge for businesses that rely on young professionals who often have liberal attitudes about marijuana. This is especially true in the mostly-liberal states that have recently legalized marijuana. Consider Colorado. In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize pot. At the beginning, there was an increase in drug testing, but that has since changed.

“We have ski industries out here, and if they really took a hard line on marijuana use, they would have to shut down,” said Curtis Graves, the Colorado-based Mountain States Employers Council information resource manager. Continue reading

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