Workers’ Compensation FAQs
Workers’ Compensation can be a confusing topic. Here, we have compiled some of the most commonly asked questions we received and we have answered them for you. Feel free to browse the questions and answers to start getting the information you need to protect your own workers’ compensation benefits.
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Can I receive workers’ comp benefits if I have a pre-existing condition?
Few of us are lucky enough to get through life without any medical injuries or conditions. Even if our illnesses or previous injuries are under control, they may make us more likely to be hurt in future accidents.
Your pre-existing conditions do not, however, prevent you from getting fair workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt at work in Massachusetts.
What Is a Pre-existing Condition?
As the term suggests, a pre-existing condition is any illness or injury that you had before getting hurt at work. Some examples of pre-existing conditions that may be made worse by your regular work responsibilities or a workplace accident include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Back injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Neck injuries
- Arm or hand injuries
- Leg or foot injuries
- Knee or elbow injuries
- Mental health conditions including anxiety and depression
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will likely try to deny paying you the workers’ compensation benefits that you deserve if you have one of these, or any other, pre-existing condition.
You Can Recover for Your Work-Related Injury
Massachusetts law allows most workers to recover for work-related injuries. To protect your recovery, however, it is essential to understand your rights. Massachusetts workers have the right to recover for work-related injuries regardless of whether they have pre-existing conditions, but the cause of your pre-existing condition is important. Specifically:
- If your pre-existing condition is a work-related injury that was compensable under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, then you are eligible for workers’ compensation even if you aggravate that injury at a new job.
- If your pre-existing condition is not a work-related injury, then you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if your subsequent work injury is a major cause of your current injury, disability, and need for medical attention. A major cause does not have to be a predominant cause. Workers’ compensation will pay only for your work-related injury and not for any disability or medical attention that you need because of your pre-existing condition.
Figuring out how much of your current condition is due to the new work-related injury rather than a pre-existing condition is often challenging. You will need evidence, including medical records, to convince the workers’ compensation insurance company that you deserve compensation for your injuries.
Why You Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Massachusetts
You have a lot at stake. Workers’ compensation may pay a portion of your lost income, all of your medical bills, and provide other benefits. Without workers’ compensation, you are on your own for all of these costs.
Since you had a pre-existing condition at the time of your work-related injury, you should expect the following potential complications in your current workers’ comp case:
- The workers’ compensation insurance company may request an independent medical examination. You must comply with the insurance company’s request, but you should not stop seeing your own doctor for treatment.
- The workers’ compensation insurer may say that you have a combination injury. A combination injury is one that includes both a pre-existing condition and your current work-related injury. If this happens, then you have the burden to prove that your work-related accident was a major reason for your current disability and medical care so that you can receive compensation.
- Your workers’ comp claim may be denied. If this happens to you, then you should be ready to file a workers’ compensation appeal. Appeals can be complicated and may include different stages such as conciliation, conference, hearing, Reviewing Board proceedings, and an appeal to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.
Our experienced Massachusetts workers’ comp lawyers will gather all evidence including but not limited to emergency room records, medical records, employment records, and incident reports. We will make persuasive arguments to help you get the benefits that you deserve either in negotiations with the workers’ comp insurer or through a formal appeal, if necessary.
Call us or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you today. Let us schedule a free consultation and discuss how to protect your rights.
Is my employer required to have workers’ compensation insurance?
State law requires that almost all Massachusetts employers carry workers’ compensation insurance. A Massachusetts employer is defined as an employer who does business in the Commonwealth regardless of whether the employer’s headquarters is located in Massachusetts.
For the vast majority of Massachusetts employers, the requirement to carry workers’ compensation insurance applies regardless of the number of employees or the number of hours that the employees work.
Exceptions to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Requirement
While almost all Massachusetts employers must have workers’ compensation, there are a few exceptions to the law. Specifically:
- Employers of domestic employees only need to carry workers’ compensation insurance if the domestic employee works at least 16 hours a week.
- Members of a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP) do not need to have workers’ comp insurance if they are the only ones working for the LLC or LLP and they do not have any other employees.
Additionally, corporate officers may request an exemption for themselves if they own at least a 25 percent interest in the corporation. This exemption would apply only to the qualifying corporate officers and not to any employees of the corporation.
How to Verify Your Employer’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance
As an employee, you likely want to know whether your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance. In Massachusetts, you can do this easily. All you need is the name of your employer’s business, the city or town where it is located, and the zip code. You can then check for workers’ comp insurance:
- Online. You can search for your employer’s insurance coverage online. However, your employer may have insurance, and it may not show up in an online search in some cases. If it does not show up, then you should verify coverage in another way.
- By phone. You can call the Office of Insurance, Department of Accidents at (617) 626-5480 or (617) 626-5481.
- By mail. You can download the insurance inquiry form and mail it to the Office of Insurance, Department of Industrial Accidents, 19 Staniford Street, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02114.
- By fax. You can fax your insurance inquiry form to the Office of Insurance, Department of Accidents at (617) 624-0985.
- In person at the Department of Industrial Accidents in Boston. You will need to do this if you are searching for proof of insurance from 1986 or earlier.
Penalties for Employers Who Do Not Have Workers’ Compensation
Whether or not someone is hurt on the job, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may impose penalties on any employers who do not have the required workers’ compensation insurance. The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) Office of Investigations may:
- Issue a stop work order (SWO) to the employer.
- Impose a fine of $100 a day (including weekends and holidays) beginning on the date the SWO was issued and ending on the date that workers’ compensation insurance starts and the fine is paid in full.
Employers who receive an SWO have a choice to make. They may appeal the SWO and remain open during the appeal. However, employers who choose this option will have their fine increased to $250 a day.
Further penalties may include being excluded from consideration for public contracts for three years and criminal penalties that include up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,500.
What to Do If You are Hurt at Work
There are specific steps that you should take if you’ve been injured at work in Massachusetts. In addition to checking to see if your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, you should seek immediate medical attention and you should promptly report your injury to your employer. Your time to report your injury is limited and if you fail to make the report then your claim could be denied.
Additionally, it is important to consult with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer. Whether or not your employer had the required insurance, an attorney can make sure that all of your rights and your workers’ compensation benefits are protected. Call us or reach out to us via this website today to schedule a free and confidential consultation and to learn more about getting your medical expenses paid and a portion of your lost income reimbursed.
Get the Workers’ Comp Benefits You Deserve After an Auto Accident
You were hurt in a horrific car crash. You think that you were hurt in the course of your employment and that workers’ compensation should pay for your injuries, but your employer and the workers’ comp insurance company disagree. Who is right? When are auto accident injuries covered by workers’ compensation, what can you receive in workers’ comp benefits, and how can you make sure your rights are protected?
Auto Accident Injuries Must Be Work Related
You can only recover workers’ compensation benefits for your car crash injuries if you were in the car for work-related purposes at the time of the accident.
In most cases, commuting to and from work does not count as a work-related purpose and you will not have a valid workers’ compensation claim if you are hurt in a crash on your way to work or after you have left work for the day. There are exceptions to this general rule, however. You may be eligible for workers’ compensation if you were hurt during your commute and:
- You were hurt on your employer’s premises.
- You were hurt in a parking facility owned by your employer.
- You were traveling home after an off-site meeting or work event.
- You were hurt in a vehicle that was owned by your employer.
- Your employer pays you for your commuting time.
- You do not have a fixed office and you begin work as soon as you leave your home.
Additionally, there are many situations where you may be in your car for a work-related reason during your working hours. Some examples of these situations include being a driver or a passenger:
- On the way to or from a meeting.
- On the way to or from a work-related errand.
- Making a delivery.
If you are hurt in any of these situations—or in any other situation where you were in the car for work-related reasons, then you may be able to pursue a workers’ compensation claim if you suffered an injury that kept you out of work. Some common car accident injuries include:
- Broken bones.
- Internal injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Muscle or ligament injuries.
Any one of these injuries will result in medical expenses and likely in time off of work.
Workers’ Comp Benefits for Work-Related Car Crash Injuries
Once it has been determined that you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits because you were hurt in a car crash during the course of your employment, then you will need to know what kinds of benefits you may recover. In Massachusetts, workers’ compensation benefits may include compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Vocational rehabilitation services
- Loss of bodily function or disfigurement
While all of your medical costs should be covered, the amount of other compensation that you receive depends on the unique injuries that you’ve suffered.
Workers’ compensation will not compensate you in the same way that a personal injury lawsuit would after a car crash. For example, you cannot recover for your pain and suffering by making a workers’ compensation claim. In some cases, you may be able to pursue a personal injury case and file a workers’ compensation claim.
How to Get the Workers’ Comp Benefits You Deserve
Whether or not you have a potential third-party personal injury case, it is important to talk with a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand whether you have claim and help you fight for the fair and just benefits that you’ve earned.
Your time for notifying your employer of your injury is limited. If you wait too long, then you may be unable to get workers’ compensation benefits that you might have otherwise been able to receive. Accordingly, our workers’ compensation lawyers encourage you to contact your employer as soon as possible and to call us to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation about your rights and about how to protect your potential workers’ compensation benefits today.
I was hurt at work in Massachusetts. What should workers’ compensation include?
Massachusetts workers’ compensation law covers medical benefits for all injured workers. Beyond that, the answer to your question depends on your specific injury. Massachusetts law provides for different benefits depending on whether your injury is temporary or permanent and whether your injury is partially or totally incapacitating. Additionally, Massachusetts law may provide other benefits if you suffer permanent scarring or disfigurement or if your loved one has died because of a workplace injury or illness.
All Injured Workers Should Receive Medical Benefits
You have the right to receive adequate and reasonable medical care for as long as you require healthcare services. This includes doctors’ appointments, hospitalizations, surgeries, prescription medications, and even mileage reimbursement for travel to and from medical appointments. Your employer may decide which healthcare provider you see for your first appointment. After that, you have the right to decide on your own healthcare providers.
While these benefits may be very important to you, they will not compensate you for your lost income.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Based on Your Injury
Compensation for your lost income will depend on whether your injury was permanent or temporary and whether your injury was complete or partial. Specifically, you may recover the following benefits for a:
- Temporary Total Incapacity Injury. If you are unable to work for six or more days, then you may be eligible to receive 60 percent of your gross average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your injury. The maximum amount you can receive is equal to the state’s average weekly wage. Benefits may continue for up to 156 weeks.
- Temporary Partial Incapacity Injury. If you are able to work, but you can’t earn the same amount that you did prior to your injury, then you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Benefits may equal 75 percent of what you would be eligible for if you had a temporary total incapacity injury. Benefits may continue for up to 260 weeks.
- Permanent Total Incapacity Injury. If you are permanently and completely unable to work, then you may be eligible to receive 66 percent of your gross average weekly wage. The minimum amount you can collect is equal to 20 percent of the state’s average weekly wage and the maximum amount you can collect is equal to the state’s average weekly wage. Benefits may continue for as long as you are disabled.
If you suffer a permanent injury, then you may also be eligible for vocational benefits. Once you are medically stable, you may request a meeting with the Office of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation to request vocational services so that you can return to meaningful employment.
Additional Workers’ Compensation Benefits May Be Possible for Specific Injuries
In some cases, Massachusetts law allows for the additional recovery of benefits such as when:
- You suffer scarring, disfigurement, or loss of bodily functions. If the injury occurs on your face, neck, or hands, then you may be able to receive a one-time payment for your injury in addition to the benefits described above. The specific amount of your payment depends on the location and severity of your injury.
- Your loved one has died from a work-related illness or injury. You may be able to recover survivor benefits if your spouse died because of a work-related illness or injury or if your parent died because of a work-related illness or injury and you are under the age of 18, you are a full-time student, or you unable to work because of a disability. Generally, the benefits include up to 66 percent of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage up to the maximum state average weekly wage. Burial costs may also be covered by workers’ compensation. Restrictions on these benefits do apply and it is important to talk to a workers’ comp lawyer about how the benefits apply to you.
Understanding your workers’ comp benefits is only the first step in your recovery.
The Next Step Is to Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for Help
The workers’ compensation insurance company wants to pay you as little as possible for your claim. You cannot trust that you will be treated fairly if you negotiate directly with the insurance company. However, if you hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to represent you, then you can be sure that your rights will be protected and that a skilled advocate will be working hard to get you the benefits that you deserve.
We understand that money can be tight while you are out of work due to an injury or illness. Our lawyers do not want this to stand in the way of your benefits. Accordingly, we encourage you to contact our experienced disability lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation about your rights and about how to protect the benefits you’ve earned.