Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

Most workers are entitled to benefits through a program called workers’ compensation if they become injured or ill on the job. But how long does it take to begin receiving benefits, and what exactly can an injured worker expect to receive?

If you’ve been injured on the job, you may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits, which generally include a percentage of your lost wages, medical expenses, vocational rehab, and benefits for permanent impairment, should this become necessary. A Boston workers’ comp attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

No Pain and Suffering

Each year in the United States, thousands of workers are killed and millions suffer non-fatal injuries. Among those injured, more than three million subsequently develop chronic medical conditions as a result. It’s common knowledge that certain industries—such as construction and logging—rank at the top of the “dangerous jobs” list, but no occupation is immune. In fact, some of the most common injuries—such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back problems—occur in office jobs. The data below, collected by the nation’s leading insurance companies, has revealed the top most commonly-reported work injuries and their causes.

Repetitive Motion Injuries

Continuously engaging in the same motions day in and day out over the course of several months or years can lead to injuries. Common repetitive motion injuries include eye problems, strained muscles, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. To prevent these injuries, employees should receive adequate training on proper postures and should be provided with ergonomic equipment to reduce the incidence of injuries.

Entanglement

Factory workers often use heavy machinery to perform their jobs. When fingers, hair, or clothing become entangled in these machines, the worker can be pulled into the machine and become entangled. These injuries often result in the loss of one or more fingers or toes. They can also be deadly. To prevent machine entanglement injuries, protective equipment and training are essential, as are lockout/tagout mechanisms to prevent machines from starting unexpectedly.

Falls from Heights

Anytime someone is working from an elevated area—including roofs, ladders, and scaffolding—there is the potential for a deadly fall. Although falls from heights can occur in any industry, they are most common in construction. In addition to faulty equipment and lack of training and personal protection gear, falls from heights can also be caused due to slippery surfaces. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Reaction Injuries

Typically caused when someone slips and trips but does not fall, reaction injuries can result in trauma to various parts of the body. Preventing these types of incidents can be difficult, but ensuring that walkways are kept dry and clutter-free goes a long way toward reducing the prevalence of reaction injuries. This is another area in which employee training and awareness are of paramount importance.

Slip and Fall Injuries

The number two cause of work-related injuries is slip and fall accidents. In fact, slip and fall accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental death and injury overall, not just in the workplace. To prevent slip and fall injuries, ensure that spills are promptly cleaned up, and keep walkways well-lit and free of clutter and debris.

Overexertion Injuries

The number one workplace injury is also the most costly. Overexertion injuries include those related to lifting, holding, pushing, pulling, and carrying. A MA work injury attorney can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured on the job. Continue reading

Considering that firefighters are 14 percent more likely to die from cancer than the rest of the population, Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to deem cancer a work related injury for firefighters makes perfect sense. This new legislation will provide coverage for lost wages and all medical expenses for firefighters who develop cancer.

“Cancer is a very real hazard of the job, and we want to make sure we’re doing what we need to do to help those who serve,” said Baker.

According to Edward Kelly, the general secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Firefighters, prior to the new law, firefighters had little choice but to use their sick and personal days to take time off for cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. A MA workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured or become ill on the job.

“As firefighters, we accept the sacrifice of our job as part of our calling,” said Kelly. “But when we get diagnosed with cancer, and we run out of sick leave and we go off the payroll and we lose our health care, that is just wrong.”

Dozens of MA families who have been impacted by firefighting-related cancer diagnoses were interviewed by lawmakers in an effort to get this law passed. Richard MacKinnon, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, was particularly moved by the story of Anthony Colarusso, a Plymouth firefighter who died at the age of 39 from esophageal cancer. At the time of Colarusso’s death, he had lost his health insurance and hadn’t received a paycheck in more than three months.

“When this first happened, [Anthony] said he never wanted to see another firefighter go through what he went through,” said Colarusso’s mother. “I know now Tony’s up there and he’s celebrating.”

Cancer Doesn’t Discriminate

Female firefighters are just as at risk of developing work-related cancers as their male counterparts. As such, a provision of the new law includes reproductive and breast cancers.

“We realized that cancer knows no gender and we needed to have the same benefits for our increasing number of female firefighters across the state,” said MacKinnon. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve been harmed due to a work-related hazard.

Since 2016, more than 300 firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer. Among them, 107 were able to return to work, 99 had to retire due to their illness, and 29 succumbed to the disease.

Work-Related Cancers

In most industries, linking cancer to work environment is difficult. That is not, however, the case with firefighting. Another common work-related cancer, mesothelioma, is also easy to trace to work environment. Long-term exposure to asbestos fibers, which were used in building installation for decades, is proven to cause mesothelioma. In fact, hundreds of people who haven’t worked around asbestos-laden insulation for three or more decades are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. As a result, mesothelioma has long been a covered illness under workers’ comp. Fortunately, firefighters who develop cancer now have a similar ability to recover compensation for their injuries. Continue reading

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), lifting heavy objects is a top cause of workplace injuries in the United States. In fact, more than one-third of injuries resulting in lost work days involve a back or shoulder injury due to heavy lifting. The most common factors cited in back injuries are overexertion and cumulative trauma.

Fortunately, by following smart lifting practices at all times, you can dramatically reduce your risk of injury, including back sprains and strains, pulled muscles, wrist and elbow injuries, and injuries to the neck, shoulders, and spine. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

How to Reduce/Eliminate Common Hazards

Anytime you must lift an object or load heavier than 50 pounds, you are at an increased risk of back injury. Certain loads, such as bundles of wire or conduit, and heavy machinery, place an unsafe amount of stress on the vertebrae and muscles of the back. To reduce or eliminate these hazards, consider the following solutions:

  • Always use pallet jacks and hand trucks to move heavy objects or loads.
  • Never roll spools. They are nearly impossible to stop once in motion.
  • Use forklifts or other mechanical lifting methods whenever possible to lift heavy objects, such as transformers, conduit, and machinery.
  • Use suction tools to lift heavy objects with flat surfaces.
  • When lifting equipment into trucks, use lift gates or ramps.
  • If you must manually lift an item, always use smart lifting practices. Place the object level with your “power zone” (between mid-thigh and mid-chest) prior to lifting. Keep your spine straight and bend at the knees.
  • If possible, request that suppliers break down loads into smaller quantities (off-site) prior to delivery.
  • Try to limit manual lifting weight to 50 pounds or less. When heavier loads must be lifted manually, request the help of at least one additional worker. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a workplace lifting accident.

Avoid Improper or Awkward Postures

Bending and reaching while lifting also increases the weight of the load on your back. As a result, the stress on the muscles, shoulders, and lower spine can lead to serious injury. This is even true of lighter objects. Other awkward postures, such as carrying a load unevenly on one shoulder or under one arm, can also lead to injury. To avoid injuries from awkward or improper postures, follow the tips below:

  • Hold objects close to your body when lifting.
  • Use your leg muscles to help lift an object from a low level.
  • Store objects that require manual lifting at “power zone” level.
  • Never twist your torso while lifting. Move your feet instead.

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If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, your injuries may prevent you from performing the duties of your job. If you are unable to work for an extended period of time, the lost wages can be financially devastating. Fortunately, workers’ compensation exists to cover a percentage of your normal wages if you cannot work due to an on-the-job injury or illness. But when do those benefits kick in? For some people, even a few weeks without a paycheck can be disastrous.

As with most things in life, all workers’ comp cases are unique. However, the paragraphs below gives an idea of the general timeline you can expect once you file your workers’ comp claim. A MA workers’ comp attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

Seek Medical Attention

Your injury is the official kickoff of your workers’ compensation claim. As such, you will want to take certain steps immediately following your injury to ensure that your claim is received and completed in a timely manner, namely, seek medical attention. Not to mention, medical treatment after an accident is in the best interest of your overall health and well-being. In MA, as in most other states, either the employer or its workers’ comp carrier must pay for an injured employee’s medical bills as soon as the claim is filed. In layman’s terms, you don’t have to wait for approval to receive compensation for medical expenses.

Report the Injury to Your Employer

Step two is to report your injury to your employer, and do so in writing. As soon as you report your injury, your employer is obligated to provide you with a claim form. Fill this form out completely and file immediately. And don’t forget to keep a copy for your records.

Employer’s Responsibility

At this point, your employer is required to notify its insurance carrier immediately to arrange for medical treatment and compensation. In some cases, the employer must also submit a wage verification form to the insurance company.

Wait on the Insurance Company’s Decision

Once the claim has been received by the insurance company, the insurer has 30 days within which to either accept or deny the claim. If approved, the insurer will begin paying benefits almost immediately. If denied, you have a small window within which to request a review hearing. In most cases, the hearing will occur within 30 days of your request, and a final decision will usually be made within 15 days.

To summarize, if you take immediate steps to ensure that your claim is processed as quickly as possible, and your claim is approved on the first try, you should start receiving benefits within one month. That being said, initial claims are often denied due to minor application errors or omissions. That is why it is so important to consult with an experienced Boston workers’ comp attorney. With skilled legal representation, you are more likely to receive the full benefits you deserve in a timely manner. Continue reading

If you are hurt on the job, you will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In exchange for accepting these benefits, you agree to not bring a lawsuit against your employer for any injuries suffered. Workers’ comp covers most work-related injuries, but there are certain rules you must follow to obtain benefits, and even a simple mistake can delay or reduce the benefits to which you are entitled.

If I am injured on the job, what’s the first thing I should do?

Following a work-related injury or illness, you should take the steps below:

  • Immediately report your injury or illness to a supervisor;
  • Ask to see a physician;
  • Request and fill out a workers’ comp form.

Remember, your employer is under no legal obligation to provide workers’ comp benefits until you have reported your injury and completed a claim form. Don’t wait until your condition is so bad that you can no longer perform the duties of your job. A Boston workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured at work.

What Benefits Does Workers’ Comp Provide?

Although benefits can vary from case to case, the four basic benefits that a recipient of workers’ comp can expect to receive are as follows:

  • Medical care: Any treatment that is reasonably necessary for your injury should be covered by the insurance company that provides workers’ comp insurance to your employer;
  • Benefit payments: You should receive a percentage of your wages while you are unable to work;
  • Settlement for permanent disability: If you are permanently unable to return to work, you may be entitled to compensation based on the severity of your disability;
  • Vocational rehab: If you are unable to return to your old occupation but you can perform the duties of another occupation, you may be entitled to paid training.

Can My Employer Fire Me While I’m Receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits?

If you are receiving workers’ comp due to a temporary disability, your employer may not terminate you. If, however, medical evidence shows that you will be unable to return to your job, there may be an exception to this rule. If your disability will keep you from your occupation for an extended period, and this absence places an undue burden on your employer, a temporary worker may be used to replace you until your return. A MA work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured on the job.

Commonly Overlooked Work Injuries

If you have one of the injuries below, you may be suffering from a work injury without even knowing it.

  • Heart problems: Even if a heart attack or other heart problem occurs away from the workplace, it could be work-related.
  • Lung problems: Breathing problems and other conditions involving the lungs can be caused by long-term exposure to industrial chemicals and materials.
  • Hearing loss: If your workplace exposes you to loud noises on a regular basis, this can cause hearing loss, even if you wear hearing protection.
  • Back problems and hernias: If you regularly lift or move even moderately heavy objects, this can lead to serious back pain and hernias.
  • Eye injuries: Eye strain from staring at a computer screen all day, and airborne irritants in industrial occupations can both cause serious injuries to the eyes.
  • Hand injuries: If your job involves repetitive motions of the hands and wrists, you may wind up with severe wrist pain and injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Desk jobs are notorious for these injuries.

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Repetitive stress injuries—including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis—are extremely common, can be debilitating, and are often sustained on the job. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 100 types of repetitive stress injuries may occur in the workplace. In order to obtain workers’ compensation for such an injury, however, you must be able to show that your job caused your injury.

Common Causes of Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Workplace

If any of the situations below apply to you, there is a good chance that your repetitive stress injury was sustained in the workplace. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job.

  • You spend most of your day working on a computer. Sitting at a computer for hours a day may sound like an unlikely way to get injured, but it’s actually one of the most common. Performing the same movements over and over again throughout the day is the most direct route to a repetitive stress injury. Small movements that may seem benign—such as clicking your mouse, or typing and holding a desk phone between your ear and shoulder—can lead to painful, chronic conditions, many of which can make even simple tasks impossible.
  • You work in construction. Any time you perform repetitive movements for weeks or months in a row, you can develop a repetitive stress injury. Tasks like swinging a hammer, digging or running a jackhammer can result in damage to tendons, joints and muscles. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.
  • You stand all day or sit all day. The human body is not intended to be in the same position all day. Studies have proven that excessive sitting can cause back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as other health problems…it can even shave years off your life! Excessive standing can also wreak havoc on your body. Hips, knees and back are especially vulnerable to these problems.
  • You work in retail. Cashiers and others who work in retail often stand for long periods. As stated above, this alone can lead to health problems. However, retail cashiers are particularly prone to repetitive stress injuries because of the limited but continuous motions they must make all day. Watch the cashier the next time you’re standing in line. Throughout a single shift, a cashier may have to turn, grab, lift, swipe, type and pull thousands of times.

Examples of Repetitive Stress Injuries

These injuries are among the most commonly reported causes of lost work time. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that repetitive stress injuries accounted for about 33 percent of all work injuries in 2013. The most common include:

  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Trigger finger
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • Low back injuries
  • Muscle strains

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In hazard-prone work environments, such as manufacturing plants, it’s not uncommon for minor safety protocols to get overlooked in favor of more serious concerns. For example, while wearing a hard hat to protect against head injuries may be a non-negotiable, employees often  forego wearing cut-resistant gloves; it’s not like hand lacerations are life threatening. But even minor injuries, such as hand lacerations, can lead to bigger problems.

For starters, a worker is likely to become immediately distracted when a hand injury occurs. If she is working with complex machinery at the time, the distraction could be deadly. In some cases, the distraction can snowball into an incident involving multiple workers. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

The Real Cost of Minor Injuries

The hand laceration itself, although not life threatening, can still be devastating to a worker’s ability to perform necessary job duties. More than one million U.S. workers seek emergency medical treatment for lacerations annually. Just about every job requires the use of the worker’s hands. As such, hand lacerations can lead to time off work and lost wages for the worker, as well as insurance claims, increased premiums and employee-replacement costs for the employer. The average cost to a company for an employee who suffers a single laceration is $41,000.

Follow the steps below to dramatically reduce your risk of injury or death in the workplace.

  • Don’t overlook the “less serious” safety precautions; non-slip soles and cut-resistant gloves are just as important as personal fall protection equipment, for example.
  • Don’t engage in a hazardous work task when you are fatigued, distracted or stressed.
  • Take breaks at regular intervals throughout the day to prevent fatigue. In addition to resting during these breaks, drink some water and consider doing jumping jacks or some other energizing activity.
  • Your employer should perform regular inspections and maintenance of all equipment. If you are concerned that this isn’t being done properly, speak to a supervisor. If your concerns are not adequately addressed, you can always contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency tasked with establishing – and enforcing – workplace safety guidelines.
  • Your employer should also provide regular employee training, and established safety policies should be clearly stated, up to date and easy to locate. Posters, safety drills and the distribution of regular emails are effective ways of reminding employees of safety policies and the importance of following them.

Employees who don’t follow established safety policies should face tough consequences. When a worker’s noncompliance is allowed to continue, other workers will soon follow suit. Companies with zero-tolerance policies for safety violations have lower rates of worker injury and death. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job. Continue reading

When workers are injured or become ill on the job, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits are paid out of an insurance policy held by the employer which protects both employer and employee. The employee is generally entitled to receive compensation for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages in exchange for agreeing not to sue the employer. Lost wages can be financially devastating for a family; the benefits provided by workers’ comp can be a life saver.

Fortunately, workers’ comp covers most work-related illnesses and injuries. Unfortunately, workers’ comp claims can be lengthy and complicated, and even a minor error can result in delayed or reduced benefits. Two of the most confusing aspects of workers’ comp are the waiting period and retroactive period. The information below will help you understand these two requirements, and how they may impact your claim. A MA workers’ comp lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

Waiting Period

The waiting period refers to the number of days the injured worker must miss work before he or she may begin to receive indemnity payments. Although the waiting period may seem unfair to a newly-injured worker, there are two important reasons for its existence. For one, waiting periods are intended to prevent workers with minor injuries from filing frivolous claims. Knowing that she is going to lose wages for at least the duration of the waiting period, an employee with a minor injury will be less likely to file a claim, knowing that the loss would almost certainly outweigh the gain.

In MA, the waiting period is five days. If you are injured and miss five or less days of work, you will receive no benefits. If you are injured and miss more than five days of work, you will receive benefits for the days that exceed the waiting period. In some cases, employers will allow injured workers to use sick or vacation days to cover the days missed during the waiting period.

Retroactive Period

If the injured worker fulfills the requirements of the retroactive period, he or she will receive benefits for work days they missed during the waiting period. In MA, the retroactive period is 21 days.

Consider Laurie’s case. Laurie injures her back in a work-related accident and is temporarily unable to work. In all, Laurie misses 38 days of work. For the first five days, Laurie receives no pay due to the waiting period requirement. On the sixth day, Laurie begins receiving indemnity payments. On the 21st day, Laurie satisfies the retroactive period requirement, and thus, receives payment for the first five days of missed work.

If, on the other hand, Laurie had returned to work after only 20 days (before the 21-day retroactive period), she would not have received compensation for the first five days of work she missed. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on the job. Continue reading

Work-related injuries can occur in any occupation, from secretaries and librarians to construction workers and miners. You don’t have to be working in a “dangerous industry” to get injured. In fact, repetitive motion injuries are most common among office workers. Repetitive motion injuries often affect the hand and arm, causing a wide range of complications, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis.

But hand and arm injuries can also be more catastrophic; thousands of crush injuries, lacerations and amputations occur annually in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 50,000 workers suffer an arm injury every year. Arm injuries cause workers to miss an average of 11 days of work. And work-related hand injuries are even more common. The BLS estimates that more than 137,000 workers suffer a hand injury annually. These injuries typically result in less missed work, however, with the average being five days.

Combined, hand and arm injuries affect nearly 200,000 U.S. workers every year. With such staggering numbers, employers should consider reviewing their hand and arm safety policies. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured or become ill at work.

Repetitive Motion Injuries

Obtaining workers’ compensation for amputations and crush injuries is often easier than for repetitive motion injuries, which are more common but harder to prove. Further, repetitive motion injuries are not felt all at once after a single, traumatic event. Rather, the pain and complications associated with repetitive motion injuries reveal themselves over time as they continue to damage the nerves, muscles, and / or tendons. But when these injuries become apparent, they can be just as debilitating as a more “serious” injury. The pain from bursitis or epicondylitis (tennis elbow), for example, can be excruciating. If a worker is no longer able to perform his or her job due to this type of injury, the loss of income can be just as devastating as it is with sudden injuries, such as amputations or chemical burns to the eyes.

Traumatic Injuries

With the more event-based, traumatic injuries such as amputations and crush injuries, the cause is often related to poor employee training, lack of safety gear, and failure to implement proper lockout/tagout procedures, which protect against unexpected start ups while workers are performing maintenance on a machine. If employer negligence played a role in a hand or arm injury, the worker may be entitled to additional compensation – beyond workers’ comp benefits – for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. For example, an employer may neglect to properly guard machinery and provide employees with appropriate safety gear. If the failure to do so results in a serious injury, the employer may be liable.

According to the BLS, thousands of U.S. workers lose a body part to workplace amputations annually, and about 21 workers die from these amputations. The most common pieces of equipment responsible for work-related amputations and crushing injuries are drill and mechanical power presses, meat grinders, food slicers, conveyors, portable and table saws, milling shears and machines, slitters and grinders, and power press brakes.

Lacerations

Serious lacerations account for up to 30 percent of all on-the-job injuries. Deep puncture wounds and lacerations that involve tendon or nerve damage are often due to poor training and safety protocol, failure to wear appropriate safety gear, and lack of guarding equipment. These injuries can occur because the worker simply wasn’t paying attention, but all too often employer negligence is a factor. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured at work. Continue reading

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