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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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.

Cranes are used on construction sites to move heavy objects. If not operated safely, they can be extremely dangerous. Crane accidents are a leading cause of serious injury and death in the construction industry. In fact, the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that there were 818 crane-related fatalities in the 10 year period between 1997 and 2006. The reasons for these accidents vary widely, from mechanical failures to user error. Fortunately, most crane accidents are easily preventable. The following information looks at common causes of crane accidents and how to prevent them.

How to Prevent Crane Accidents

Because of their sheer size, weight and height, cranes can be deadly when misused or poorly maintained. Crane collapses, which may occur when weight limits are ignored or the crane is placed on an unstable surface, often result in death. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the following conditions are crucial to the prevention of crane accidents:

  • All crane operators and related workers must receive proper training.
  • Crane equipment should be regularly maintained and inspected for the detection of equipment failures or defects.
  • Cranes and loads must be properly rigged.
  • Manufacturer-specified weight limits must be strictly observed.
  • Crane assembly and disassembly must be closely supervised.
  • Anyone working on or around a crane must be able to openly and effectively communicate with others working on or around the crane.
  • Cranes must be placed on stable ground.
  • Cranes must be a safe distance from power lines.

Electrocution

According to OSHA, nearly half of all overhead crane accidents occur when the crane makes contact with a power source. These accidents often result in the electrocution of anyone touching the crane when it comes into contact with a high-voltage power line. But even workers in close proximity to the crane can be seriously injured. In fact, nearly 200 workers die this way every year. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Overloading

About 80 percent of all crane collapses can be attributed to overloading. When the crane’s operational capacity is exceeded, structural stress can result in structural failures and collapse. Swinging or suddenly dropping the load can also lead to collapse. Overloading is most often a direct result of human error, and can be prevented through proper training and supervision. Relying on instinct to determine whether a load is too heavy can lead to disaster. The use of load-measuring technologies can significantly reduce the risk of this potentially-deadly hazard. Continue reading

Serious construction accidents have been on the rise in recent years, especially in high-population areas, such as Boston, New York, and New Jersey. In response, safety advocates are pushing for increased training requirements for workers in the construction industry. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced his plan to implement additional construction worker training requirements, but the real estate industry has concerns. Why?

If de Blasio and New York union leaders achieve their goal and increase training requirements for the construction industry, workers will need to receive dozens of hours of additional training, which translates to higher real estate costs and less time to complete construction jobs. Politico reports that, “In response to a recent uptick in injuries and deaths, City Hall is proposing a requirement that all workers be trained between 54 and 71 hours.” And the extra training doesn’t stop there.

The “proposal would require an extra 30 hours of training for supervisors, and certain workers would have to undergo additional ‘task specific training,’ such as working in confined spaces and with scaffolding.” Extra training couldn’t be anything but positive for the safety and well-being of construction workers and the general public, but it’s evident why the real estate industry is concerned. Before the proposed deal is approved, however, it requires City Council approval. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you or a loved one has been injured in a work-related accident.

Construction Safety

It’s as-yet unknown whether the new proposal will pass. In the meantime, construction workers and employers can dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury or death by following the safety guidelines below:

  • Workers should always use personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles, foot protection, slip resistant, safety-toed boots, snug-fitting gloves, and a hard hat.
  • Scaffolds should meet all safety requirements established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Where electrical work is being done, a lockout/tagout system should always be in place.
  • Extension cords should always have grounding prongs.
  • Multiple plug adapters should never be used at a construction site.
  • Where floor openings exist, a guardrail or appropriate cover should be used at all times.
  • Permanent floor openings should be framed with toeboards.
  • Where surfaces are elevated, post signs indicating a change in surface height.
  • Establish hazard communication protocol.
  • Only properly trained and qualified workers should operate cranes, and hoisting or rigging equipment.

In 2015, a total of 25 construction workers died on NYC construction sites, compared to 17 in 2011. Not surprisingly, undocumented immigrant workers have the greatest risk of serious injury or death on construction sites. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident. Continue reading

Long term disability claims are made when you are injured and unable to perform your work duties without experiencing significant pain. It is not easy to obtain long term disability payments from an insurance company, and even if you are granted the benefits it does not guarantee that you will be able to keep them for an extended period of time.

You may lose access to your benefits for a number of reasons, including missed deadlines, a change in your disability, a change in your doctor’s opinion of what treatment you require or, possibly, the insurance company finding out that you don’t require the benefits consistently anymore.

In order to be eligible for benefits you must be able to prove that you require regular medical care in order to care for a disability that prevents you from performing your work duties. You must be able to prove that your injury or condition fits the insurance company’s definition of “disabled,” which may differ from your own definition or your doctor’s opinion. The insurance company’s definition is the only definition that matters.

Even if you are approved for benefits, this does not mean you are now free from continuing to prove your disability to the insurance company. You must continue to provide documentation to the insurance provider, in a timely manner, which proves you are receiving medical treatment for your disability or condition. In fact, the most common reason benefits are put on hold is because a deadline was missed to send documentation to the insurance company.

You may also have your benefits halted if the insurance company finds out that you no longer require the benefits. In some cases, insurance companies may actually hire or employ agents who check up on long term disability benefits recipients to see if they are truly disabled, and that they are truly encumbered to the level that their insurance claim reports them to be.

For example, if these inspections reveal that you were capable of raking your yard and digging a hole for a new mulberry bush, and you had been receiving long term disability claim benefits due to a back injury that prevented you from working your job as a landscaper, then the insurance company can use this as a reason to end your benefits package. They would, however, be required to notify you of this intention before cutting off the benefits.

If your benefits are suddenly ended

If you suddenly lose access to your long term disability payments, time is of the essence. You have a limited amount of time to file an appeal of this decision, and it will not be easy to prove that you deserve to keep the benefits once the insurance company has decided otherwise.

Certain cases, such as a missed deadline or a missing piece of medical documentation, may be easier to clear up than other cases, such as if the insurance company uncovers some type of proof that you were not as disabled as you once had been, or claimed to be.

The only way to ensure a good chance to continue receiving your benefits package is to consult with an attorney. A good attorney can pour over the details of your specific case, talk to your physicians and your insurance company and work out the specific reasons for why your benefits were cut off.

If there is an avenue to win your benefits back, the experienced legal team at Altman & Altman LLP will find it. We have over 40 years of experience going against insurance companies in court and advocating on behalf of our clients. We can take the necessary steps and time to make sure your case is properly argued and give you the best possible chance for success. Continue reading

Have you become injured and unable to perform your duties at work as a result? Did you apply for long term disability coverage through your insurance company only to be denied? What steps can you take from here? First, it is important to understand why your claim for long term disability may have been denied.

Your injury may not satisfy the insurance definition of “disabled”

Every insurance policy is different, especially policies that are intended to cover large bodies of people, such as a policy used by a workplace to insure their employees. Two common types of policies are “own occupation,” which define a disability by being medically unable to carry out the responsibilities of your specific job. “Any occupation” defines a disability as the medical inability to perform any job.

Certain policies carry certain exclusions as well. Pre-existing conditions are often excluded from long term disability coverage, and other disabilities that rely on diagnoses that aren’t quantifiable by proof – such as certain mental conditions – may only provide coverage for a limited amount of time.

You may not have provided enough evidence to prove your disability

To be granted long term disability benefits you must be able to prove that the benefits are essential to your continued livelihood. You must prove that the benefits will go towards necessary, continuous medical treatment. To do this, you must supply the insurance company with accurate, up-to-date medical records, such as test results.

Further, whether or not you receive benefits can hinge on a written statement of opinion from your physician. This statement should include all the medical reasons for why your disability impacts your ability to work, and how performing those duties would potentially cause you harm.

Appealing a denial

If you were denied a claim for long term disability but feel as though it was a wrongful denial, you may appeal the decision. You should review the insurance company’s long term disability police first and foremost, to make sure you didn’t miss a crucial element when submitting your claim. You can usually obtain a copy of the policy from your human resource department or from the insurer itself. Your right to obtain a copy of the policy is protected by federal law, so do not take no for an answer!

Look over the denial letter for the reason you were denied coverage. You may have missed important information or forgot to supply a key piece of information, like the opinion statement from your doctor. You should also hire an attorney at this point, who will help you organize your appeal. Additionally, hiring an attorney will show the insurance company that you mean business, and will not go away without a fight.

Working with an attorney, you may find that you have a limited time to appeal a decision, and therefore limited time to obtain any medical records, or undergo any additional necessary tests to prove the difficulties caused by your disability.

As with any case involving legal affairs, it is essential that you are working with consummate professionals who understand the law and treat your individual case with special care and attention. That is exactly the type of counsel we provide at Altman & Altman LLP. Continue reading

Long term disability coverage is a provision included in some insurance benefits packages which will pay an employee a significant portion of their salary in the event that they become unable to work because of a lasting disability. This disability may be caused by an accident on the job or, in some cases, by an event unrelated to work. However there are restrictions for pre-existing conditions.

There is, however, a large burden of proof on the individual employee to show that they are indeed disabled and that they are entitled to make a long term disability claim. It is important to note that you must satisfy the definition of “disabled” that is outlined by your insurance company, not your own personal definition of disabled or a doctor’s definition.

If you get your insurance through your Massachusetts employer, you can ask a human resources representative for the information within the insurance policy that defines what a disability is. Insurance policies generally pay out long term disability claims for people who are “totally disabled,” meaning you are wholly unable to perform your work duties because of your disability, but some policies will pay for “partial” disabilities as well.

Proving a disability

In proving to an insurance company that you are indeed disabled in the long term and unable to work, the most crucial factor is getting a thorough and verified testimonial from a doctor who has observed and treated you, and knows the specific circumstances of your disability.

Insurance companies are, obviously, inclined to not just hand out expensive long term disability claims, and so it is crucial to make sure that a reliable doctor can provide a truthful and detailed account of your disability. How did you get it? How does it debilitate you? How did the doctor diagnose the disability? What tangible proof can the doctor show that your disability has a serious impact on your ability to work (x-rays, MRIs, surgery reports, etc.)?

Other information

Another important aspect of long term disability claims is that you must be receiving ongoing treatment to deal with your disability. Even after a claim has been deemed successful, it is important to continue to show that the benefits you are receiving are needed and are going to the cause they are intended to go towards, otherwise the insurance company may have grounds to terminate the benefits.

To receive benefits, usually an employee must have been a full time employee at the time of becoming disabled. Employees will have to go through a waiting period of usually a few months, and may be required to use up sick time and short-term disability benefits before applying for a long term disability claim.

Before applying for long term disability coverage, you should be sure that the injury/disability you suffered if covered by the policy, and is not expressly excluded from coverage. Certain jobs that require dangerous tasks may have more exclusions involving work-related injuries than less dangerous jobs.

In addition to long term disability, you may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits (if the disability occurred as the result of a workplace injury). Continue reading

More construction accidents occur during spring and summer than in any other season. And the increase applies to all accident types, including falls, sun stroke, electrocutions, and motor vehicle accidents. There are many reasons for the spike in construction accidents during warmer months, including longer daylight hours, distractions, poor sleep schedules, heavier traffic in roadway work zones, high temperatures, and an increase in construction work overall. Read on for more information about construction accident high season and how to avoid serious injury and death.

Tips to Avoid Construction Accidents

In 2014, more than 20 percent of work-related fatalities occurred in construction. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), its efforts have significantly reduced work-related fatalities – approximately 66 percent since 1970. By following the tips below, you can significantly avoid being injured or killed in a work-related accident.

Long-term disability (LTD) insurance provides benefits if you are unable to work due to an injury or illness. Generally, LTD benefits are between 50 percent and 80 percent of your normal wages. Group policies can be purchased through an employer and individual policies can be purchased independently. But even the most straightforward LTD plans can be complex, and each one is different. If you are unable to work and considering filing an LTD claim, the following information will help you determine how to move forward.

A skilled Boston LTD lawyer can help you examine your group or individual LTD policy to see what benefits and limitations to expect. For starters, each policy has its own definition of the term “disability,” and your disability may or may not be covered. Further, some disabilities qualify, but with specific limitations. For instance, many insurance companies cap benefits for mental health conditions at 24 months. However, there may be exceptions for chronic and particularly severe conditions, such as schizophrenia.

Own Occupation vs. Any Occupation

Once you’ve determined that your disability is covered by your LTD policy, you must consider whether your policy falls under the category of “own occupation” or “any occupation.” Own occupation refers to an inability to perform the duties of your regular occupation, whereas any occupation refers to an inability to perform the duties of any job. Own occupation is less strict: you will receive benefits if you cannot do your current job, even if you can do another job in its place.

On the other hand, “any occupation” benefits will not be received unless you are unable to perform any job. For instance, if you can no longer deal with the physical strain of a construction job, but you can do a desk job, an any occupation policy would not provide benefits. Many policies switch from own occupation to any occupation after a set time period, typically 24 months.

Waiting Periods and Exclusions

Most policies exclude pre-existing conditions, which means that any medical condition for which you’ve been treated in the past 90 days will not be covered. LTD policies also generally contain something called an “elimination period,” during which you are disabled but no benefits are available. It usually lasts between 90 and 180 days. Short-term disability (STD) benefits are intended to bridge this gap.

As stated above, every LTD policy is different. Some pay benefits until retirement age, others pay for five or 10 years. In almost every circumstance, you will have to file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) before you can receive LTD benefits. SSDI is an income-based program intended to offset your LTD benefits if you qualify.

If your LTD is from a group policy (employer sponsored), you will likely have to pay taxes on any benefits you receive as group policies are usually purchased with pre-tax dollars. If, however, you have an individual plan, you may have purchased it with after-tax dollars, in which case your benefits will be tax free.

What if My Benefits are Denied?

Denials are actually quite common. If your initial application was denied, you can appeal the decision internally, before taking it to federal court. An experienced MA disability attorney can help you appeal a denial so that you may receive the full benefits to which you are entitled. Continue reading

When people think of chlorine, the first thing that comes to mind is usually swimming pools. But chlorine is actually an extremely toxic – potentially deadly – substance. In fact, the gas produced by chlorine is so deadly that it was used during WWI as a chemical weapon. Although most chlorine-related injuries are minor burns or skin irritations, more serious injuries occur every year. Chlorine gas can cause fatal explosions, and even short-term exposure can result in life-threatening respiratory complications.

A fatal chlorine accident occurred in 2015, when an unmarked drum of chlorine gas was crushed. Eight Pacific Steel and Recycling employees were injured at the Spokane, Washington facility. One of those workers died. In 2017, one of the injured employees filed a lawsuit. Felix Shuck suffered a fifty percent reduction in lung capacity, as well as multiple other injuries that prevented him from continuing to work. However, Shuck is suing the company that delivered the chlorine gas, not his employer. Ibex Construction is being sued for negligence for allegedly hiring a subcontractor whose failure to label the drum resulted in the fatal accident.

But Pacific Steel and Recycling didn’t get away unscathed; a government agency fined the company for failure to follow certain procedures. For example, they failed to ensure that the gas drum was empty prior to accepting it, and they stripped the drum of its pressure gauges, which may have contributed to the accident. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an accident involving toxic substances or fumes.

How to Avoid Injuries Related to Toxic Substances

If you must work around toxic substances, the following practices can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death.

 

  • Substitute an existing substance, process, or equipment with a less hazardous alternative.
  • Isolate the hazard with an appropriate barrier or limiter, such as machine guards, remote-controlled equipment, and acoustical containment.
  • Ventilate the work environment through one of two methods – dilution of the substance by mixing with uncontaminated air, or the capture and removal of the substance at the source.
  • Change operating practices to reduce exposure to chemical hazards. This can be done by adjusting work schedules, limiting access to high-risk areas, and establishing preventive maintenance programs.
  • Use personal protection equipment, such as ventilators, masks, and protective clothing.

 

Who is Liable for Injuries Caused by Workplace Exposure to Toxic Substances?

Work-related injuries are generally covered by workers’ compensation, but individuals may recover additional damages if negligence contributed to the accident, as in the case above. Chlorine gas is one type of toxic substance, but there are many others, including asbestos. Asbestos is one of the deadliest toxic substances in the history of workplace toxic substances. According to the World Heath Organization more than 100,000 people die annually due to asbestos-related lung cancer, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. In many cases, multiple parties may be liable for injuries caused by workplace exposure to toxic substances, including contractors (as in the case above), the original manufacturer, and the employer. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

Work injuries rise during summer months for various reasons; long hours outside in the elements, dehydration, and a spike in “riskier” jobs such as road construction, to name a few. The good news is, the majority of these injuries are easily preventable. Read on for more information about the most common summer work injuries and how to avoid them.

Hyperthermia

Most of us have heard of hypothermia, but what about hyperthermia? This condition occurs when the body heats up too quickly and is unable to cool down as efficiently. Left untreated, hyperthermia can lead to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Although spending hours in the hot sun increases your chances of heat stroke, even short periods in direct sunlight can have serious health implications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 7,000 people died of heat-related illnesses in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010. That’s an average of more than 600 deaths annually.

Heat Stroke

If you work in direct sunlight or high temperatures for any period of time, you increase your chances of suffering from heat stroke. Listen to what your body is telling you; if you develop symptoms of a heat-related illness, take immediate action. Get out of the direct sunlight, drink water, and seek medical attention. Symptoms of heat stroke may include:

 

  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Coma
  • Death

Dehydration

When the body loses significant amounts of water, dehydration can occur. Excessive sweating is a leading cause of dehydration. The body sweats in an attempt to cool itself; if you sweat out more water than you take in, you risk becoming severely dehydrated. The best way to combat this potential work injury is to avoid working in direct sunlight for extended periods, and to consume plenty of liquids when working outside for any length of time. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Skin Cancer

When most people think of work-related illnesses and injuries, they think of conditions with immediate symptoms. However, some work-related injuries don’t become apparent for weeks, months, or even years. Workers who spend extended periods of time working outside are susceptible to complications from exposure to direct sunlight, including skin cancer. Even severe sun burns can be classified as a work injury. To prevent skin cancer and serious sun burns, wear protective clothing and a hat, work in the shade when possible, use sun block on exposed skin, and try to limit outdoor work hours to before 10 am and after 2 pm.

Construction Accidents

Construction and road work peak during summer months. As such, so do injuries common to these work environments. In summer, motor vehicle accidents involving road workers increase, as do injuries from on-site machinery at construction and road construction sites. A MA work injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Of course, slips, trips, and falls can happen in any season, but they tend to occur more frequently during summer months. This is likely due to an increase in work that involves high places during summer, such as construction, roofing, road construction, painting, and tree climbing. Broken bones, head injuries, and traumatic brain injuries can result from work-related slips, trips, and falls. To prevent serious injury or death, always use fall protection when working at high elevations. Continue reading

In 2016, Travelers Insurance released an “Injury Impact Report” identifying the leading causes of work-related injury accidents. The study reviewed more than 1.5 million workers’ comp claims from a diverse selection of industries. The claims, filed between 2010 and 2014, revealed the top five most common claims and their relative costs.

Lost Work Time

The most common injuries by far were strains, sprains and fractures, contusions, cuts and punctures, inflammation, and chronic sickness. The average lost work time for strains and sprains was 57 days, and cuts and punctures followed at 24 days. But the main causes of missed work time were inflammation and fractures, with fractures resulting in 78 days lost and inflammation-related injuries resulting in 91. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident

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