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.

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.)?

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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

More than four million people suffer a work-related injury or illness in the United States annually. Of those injuries, more than two million are severe enough to result in missed work and the need for ongoing medical treatment. For about 1,000 of these workers, injuries are fatal. The good news is, most of these injuries are preventable. Read on for more information about the most commonly-filed workers’ compensation claims, and how to avoid being injured at work.

Leading Work-Related Injuries

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance intended to protect workers, both financially and medically, if they are injured on the job. The on-the-job injuries that result in the most workers’ comp claims include:

  • Slips, trips and falls: Wet floors, icy walkways, and uneven flooring can all cause slips, trips and falls in the workplace. Sometimes falls are just embarrassing…sometimes they are deadly. Falls account for 15 percent of all accidental fatalities, and they are second only to car accidents as a cause of death.
  • Overexertion: Lifting, pulling, or pushing a heavy object can lead to overexertion. If a worker extends a joint beyond its normal range of motion, it can result in immediate pain and a long recovery period. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.
  • Struck by an object: These injuries are especially common in occupations that involve mass storage of inventory or supplies. If an employee attempts to reach an item on a high shelf and it falls, the employee may be struck by the item. Such injuries range widely in severity, from minor to fatal.
  • Roadway accidents: Most common among truck drivers, roadway accidents can occur for various reasons, including inclement weather, driver fatigue or distraction, OUI, and other road hazards. On or off the clock, roadway accidents are a leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
  • Repetitive Motion: Construction sites and factories may be inherently dangerous places to work, but even a corporate office can cause debilitating injuries. In fact, repetitive motion injuries from typing and using the computer are among the most common workers’ compensation claims. Injuries such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis can make performing even the most routine office tasks extremely painful.
  • Falls to a lower level: When a worker falls off a roof, ladder, or down a flight of stairs, life-threatening injuries can occur. These injuries are most common in the construction industry, but any person in any occupation can suffer from fall-related injuries. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job.
  • Electrocution: These accidents account for about 1,000 deaths in the United States annually. Faulty wiring, power lines, and malfunctioning appliances are the most common causes of work-related electrocutions. Electricians, construction workers, and utility employees have the highest risk for electrocution accidents.

Report Your Concerns

Work-related injuries and deaths cost about $155.5 billion annually. You can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death by making sure that your work space is clean, safe, and that you have received adequate training. If you feel that your workplace is unsafe, speak with a supervisor. If your supervisor fails to address your concerns, you can always contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency assesses work environments to ensure that they follow specific health and safety standards at all times. Continue reading

Workplace-related burns are most common in occupations that involve working in close proximity to chemicals, high temperatures, electrical currents and machinery. Workplace burns can be thermal (high temperature), chemical, or electrical. Burns can result in serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. But they can also cause permanent scarring, which may be accompanied by emotional pain and suffering if the scars are located on a highly-visible part of the body, such as the face.

Facts About Scar Compensation in MA

In MA, workers’ compensation covers most work-related injuries. But what about scarring? What if you suffer from severe facial scarring, but your ability to perform your job duties isn’t affected at all? Can you still obtain workers’ comp benefits? A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to obtain compensation if you’ve been injured on the job. The facts below provide some pertinent facts about how workers’ comp handles on-the-job scarring.

  • The location of the scar is important. In order to be compensated for a scar, it must appear on your face, neck or hands. Under Section 36 of the MA Workers’ Compensation Statute, any scar on these parts of your body is compensable.
  • If you have a compensable scar, you do not need to miss work to receive workers’ comp payments. For example, if you are burned while working as a chef, you do not need to miss a single day of work to receive benefits, assuming that the scar is on the face, hands or neck.
  • The scar does not have to meet a minimum length or size to be covered. If you have a scar on your face, hands or neck, the size and length will certainly impact the amount of benefits you are eligible to receive, but a small scar does not disqualify you from receiving benefits.

How to Avoid Workplace Burns

Burns in the workplace are actually very common, but nearly all of these accidents are easily preventable. By following the tips below, you can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury, disfigurement and death:

  • Familiarize yourself with workplace safety rules. It is your employer’s responsibility to ensure that you are aware of this information at all times, and that you receive adequate safety training on a regular basis. Talk to your employer if you are unaware of company safety policies. If your employer isn’t receptive to your concerns, you can always contact OSHA.
  • Use extra caution around hot surfaces and hot substances (oil or grease), chemicals, and electrical wiring. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been burned on the job.
  • Wear appropriate safety clothing and gear. Depending on your occupation, protective clothing may include fire-resistant fabrics and materials, gloves and eye protection.
  • Know what to do if an accident occurs. No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen. Before beginning any high-risk job, ensure that there are easily-accessible fire extinguishers (and that they are functioning), eyewash stations and first aid kits on hand.
  • Stay focused. In this day and age, it’s not hard to get distracted. But distractions can be deadly when you’re working with electricity, high temps and toxic chemicals. Avoid taking shortcuts, and keep your mind clear and focused. If you’re having a bad day or you’re ill, it may be best to ask for a lower-risk task that day.

Continue reading

In short, no. In almost every case, you can only receive benefits from the job where your work-related accident or illness occurred. But that doesn’t mean that a second job is irrelevant. If you are injured on the job, and you have multiple jobs, it is essential that you report the other job to your employer, and to your MA workers’ compensation attorney. Failing to do so can result in serious repercussions.

To receive workers’ comp benefits, you must prove that you suffered an accidental injury or illness, and that the injury or illness arose in the course of employment. However, even when you are able to prove this, employers and insurance companies usually don’t give in without a fight. And when it comes to multiple jobs, the fight can get even more complicated. According to USA Today, about 7.8 million Americans have two or more jobs. What happens to these workers when they are injured at one job, receive workers’ comp benefits from that employer, but cannot work at their other full or part-time job?

Total Disability

Workers’ compensation benefits generally cover up to two-thirds of your average weekly pay. Considering that you can only recover compensation from the job at which you were injured, the 7.8 million workers with multiple jobs may find themselves in a sticky financial situation. But there is some good news. If a work-related injury leaves you totally disabled, the pre-injury wage from which your benefits are calculated will include wages from other jobs. In fact, it will even include overtime and bonuses received. Benefits for total disability can last up to three years.

Partial Disability

If, on the other hand, you are partially disabled, benefits will be based on the difference between your current earnings and your pre-injury wages. As such, multiple jobs will still be factored into the calculations. For example, if you make $500 per week at job A and are injured at job A, and you make $250 per week at job B, what happens if you can’t work at either job? In this scenario, the 60 percent will be based on the difference between pre-injury and post-injury wages. Since this is $750 vs. $0, the difference is $750, and the benefits will be based on that amount.

Can a Second Employer Terminate Me for Missing Work?

We’ve discussed workers’ comp pay when multiple jobs are involved, but what about job security? Well, it depends on the type of employer. If you are injured at job A and your injury prevents you from working at job B, your position at job B is safe if job B is required to pay workers’ comp benefits. Some employers are not held to these laws. A Boston worker’s comp attorney can help you determine if second and subsequent employers are required to hold your job while you recover.  Continue reading

A total of 70 people died in work-related accidents in Massachusetts in 2016. That’s a 10 year high for on-the-job fatalities. In South Boston, a worker in a seafood warehouse died from exposure to ammonia fumes. A Braintree worker died from drowning while inspecting a municipal water tank. And a trench collapse killed two construction workers in the South End.

According to a recently released report by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), 62 of the 70 deaths occurred on the job. The remaining deaths were from occupational diseases, such as lung cancer, and all of those were firefighters. All but one of the workers who died were male. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve if you’ve been injured on the job.

Since 2012, where a total of 32 work-related fatalities occurred in MA, the number of annual deaths has been rising. According to Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the co-executive director for the National Council for Occupational safety and Health, the increase in fatalities is reflective of the increase in subcontractors and workers employed by staffing agencies. Goldstein-Gelb said that these employers are not as invested in overall worker safety.

Latino Workers are Most at Risk

In addition, Goldstein-Gelb believes the increase in work-related deaths is partly due to a decline in labor unions and an increase in undocumented workers, who rarely report unsafe working conditions out of fear of retaliation. The death rate among Latino workers is the highest of any ethnic group, with four out of every 100,000 workers dying on the job annually.

“When workers can’t speak up, then there is a greater risk that a hazard will not be identified and addressed and workers will suffer the consequences,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “The less people speak up, you will see an increase in deaths.”

And the problem isn’t just in Massachusetts. The number of people killed in work-related accidents hit a national seven-year high in 2015, at a total of 4,836 deaths. Deaths from occupational illnesses are estimated to cause a shocking 95,000 deaths in the United States every year. A MA work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a work-related accident.

MA Company Facing Manslaughter Charges in Worker Deaths

The MassCOSH report listed 12 employers that put workers at an increased risk. Among them was Atlantic Drain Services, which is currently facing manslaughter charges for the deaths of Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks, the two workers who drowned in the South End trench collapse last fall. According to the Suffolk district attorney, the company had multiple safety violations prior to this tragedy, and forged documents stating that workers had attended safety training in an attempt to mislead investigators. In response to those deaths, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance requiring the submission of safety records prior to receipt of a work permit. Continue reading

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