Comparative Negligence

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a modernized alternative to the traditional contributory negligence theory, which is a defense to liability in a personal injury case. Under the old contributory negligence theory, if a defendant could show that a personal injury plaintiff contributed in any way, however slight, to the accident that caused the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff was not entitled to any compensation.

Over the last 50 years, most U.S. states adopted comparative negligence laws to negate the contributory negligence defense. Under comparative negligence, the judge or jury considers all the evidence presented in a case and assigns blame to one or both parties on a percentage basis. Comparative negligence laws result in greater fairness to all parties.

What is the rule in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts law governs personal injury cases, and the state legislature enacted a modified comparative negligence rule. Massachusetts uses the 51 percent comparative negligence rule, which is similar to several other states. Under the rule, plaintiffs can only recover if their share of the blame was less than 51 percent. If plaintiffs are 51 percent or more at fault, then they cannot recover at all, with only a few exceptions.

Another important facet of comparative negligence is that plaintiffs’ damages are reduced by their share of the blame. For instance, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages but was found to be 20 percent at fault for the injury, then the damage award is reduced by 20 percent. The plaintiff would receive a net damages award of $80,000.

What other states follow the 51 percent comparative negligence rule?

These states below follow a modified 51 percent comparative negligence rule similar to Massachusetts’:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Several other states follow further modified comparative negligence rules. And some states deny recovery to a plaintiff who is 50 percent at fault or more (one percentage point different from Massachusetts’ rule), while other states allow plaintiffs to recover even if they are 99 percent at fault. In each instance, a plaintiff’s damages award is reduced by the share of fault.

Contact Thornton Law Firm online or by phone at 1-888-491-9726 today to get started on your case!

Slip and Fall

What are common places where slip and fall accidents occur?

Slip and fall accidents tend to be some of the most surprising accidents because they can happen anywhere at any time. A quick trip to the market or even the gym could become a visit to the emergency room, and it all happens in the blink of an eye. The following are common places for slips, trips and falls:

  • Shopping centers and grocery stores
  • Gyms
  • Restaurants, bars and clubs
  • Sports arenas and stadiums
  • Hotels and inns
  • Public restrooms
  • Sidewalks, escalators and curbs
  • Homes of family, friends and neighbors
  • Driveways, parking lots and parking garages
  • Work
  • Swimming pools
  • Construction areas

What are some common slip and fall injuries

Minor slip and fall incidents happen frequently around the house and other places, but sometimes slip and fall accidents can be severe. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. Below are some serious personal injuries related to slip and fall accidents:

  • Back injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Spinal injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Concussions
  • Facial injuries
  • Scars
  • Broken bones
  • Brain trauma and traumatic brain injuries

What does premises liability mean?

Premises liability is the legal responsibility property owners have for injuries occurring on their property because of slip and fall accidents and other incidents. If a person slips, trips or falls due to a dangerous or hazardous condition, the property owner may be held responsible. Typically, property owners can be held accountable for accidents that occur because of ice and snow, water, abrupt changes in flooring, poor lighting or hidden hazards.

In order for a property owner to be held liable for injuries from a slip and fall accident, one of the following must be true:

  • The owner of the property or an employee must have known about the treacherous condition but did nothing to correct it. An example of this would be homeowners who fail to remove snow or ice from their properties in a reasonable amount of time. Visitors who slip and fall on the property could hold them liable.
  • The owner of the property or an employee should have been aware of the hazardous condition. For example, landlords who are informed multiple times about hazardous steps on one of their properties may be held liable if tenants are injured because landlords should routinely inspect their properties for safety hazards.

Trust our Massachusetts slip and fall attorneys to help

Contact the Boston law firm of Thornton Law Firm LLP online or at 1-888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in personal injury litigation. Our legal services are offered on a contingency-fee basis, so you pay nothing out of pocket to get your case started. We give you a fair and accurate assessment of your case, explain your options and help you begin on the road to recovery. We’re here when you need us most.

Spinal Injuries

What is a spinal injury?

A spinal cord injury is damage or trauma to the spinal cord resulting in a loss of function, reduced mobility or loss of feeling. Nerves in the spinal cord carry messages between your brain and body. The spinal cord does not have to be severed for a loss of function to occur. In most cases of spinal cord injury, the spinal cord is still intact, but cellular damage results in a loss of function.

Spinal cord injuries can be classified as complete or incomplete. A complete injury means that there is no function below the level of injury. In other words, the person affected would not have any sensation or voluntary movement of those areas. A person with an incomplete injury may be able to move one limb more than the other, feel parts of the body that cannot be moved or have more function and control over one side of the body than the other.

What are common causes of spinal injuries?

Spinal cord injuries result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. A traumatic spinal injury may stem from a sudden traumatic blow to your spine, such as the physical trauma of a car accident that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae. It may also result from something penetrating the spinal cord, as might happen in a severe trucking accident. Below are the most common causes of spinal injuries:

  • Motor vehicle accidents — Auto and motorcycle accidents are the leading causes of spinal cord injuries. These types of accidents account for about 39 percent of new spinal injuries each year.
  • Falls — The most common cause of spinal cord injuries in adults over the age of 65 is falling. Overall, falls account for a quarter of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Acts of violence — As much as 15 percent of all spinal cord injuries result from violent encounters.
  • Sports and recreational injuries — High-impact and high-intensity sports cause around 8 percent of spinal cord injuries.
  • Alcohol — Alcohol use is a factor in one out of every four spinal injuries.
  • Diseases — Cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord can also lead to spinal cord injuries.

What are the symptoms of spinal cord injuries?

The ability to control your limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on which area was injured and the severity of the injury. The severity of this type of personal injury can be classified as either complete or incomplete.

Paralysis from a spinal cord injury may be referred to as tetraplegia or quadriplegia, meaning that your arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by your spinal injury. The second classification of paralysis is paraplegia, which indicates that all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organs are affected.

Spinal cord injuries of any kind may result in one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
  • Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity and fertility
  • Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing discharge from your lungs

Boston, Massachusetts personal injury attorneys are ready to help

If you’ve suffered a spinal injury caused by the negligence of another, contact us for a free consultation. Work with an experienced personal injury attorney on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that you don’t pay legal fees unless we win your case. Representing clients nationwide, Thornton Law Firm LLP is here when you need us most. Call us today at 1-888-491-9726 or contact us online.

Car Accidents

What are some common causes of traffic accidents?

Despite developments in automobile technology and safety improvements over the years, car accidents remain common. Injury and death tolls continue to rise as the roads become more crowded and drivers become more distracted behind the wheel. The majority of these accidents could be avoided if the drivers were paying attention. Below are the most common causes of traffic accidents:

Distracted drivers — Research by the American Automobile Association shows that 25 to 50 percent of all car accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Drivers can be distracted in many ways, including the following:

  • Rubber-necking at the scene of an accident
  • Looking at scenery
  • Being distracted by others in the car, especially children
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Cellphones

Driver fatigue — Driving when tired is the second-most common reason for wrecks. You are most likely to encounter a drowsy driver between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Drunk driving — Alcohol-related crashes occur approximately every 30 minutes. One of the most effective methods used by law enforcement to curb drunk driving is requiring the use of ignition interlock devices for people who have been convicted of driving under the influence.

Speeding — Speeding poses many different threats. When drivers are speeding, they have less reaction time to avoid unexpected obstacles. Cars also handle differently at high speeds. Any accident involving speeding generally results in more severe injuries than a similar low-speed accident. Those injured in car wrecks involving speeding may be unable to recover damages under a contributory negligence theory, even if someone else was at fault for the accident.

Weather conditions — Bad weather conditions contribute to many traffic accidents. Snow, heavy rain, ice, fog, hail and high winds can all impact the ability to operate a vehicle and can lead to a crash, especially for drivers not accustomed to driving in such conditions.

What are common injuries in car wrecks?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 3,335,800 people are injured in automobile accidents each year in the United States. No two car crashes are the same, just like no two injuries are the same. The severity of injuries vary, but certain types of injuries are quite common, including the following:

  • Connective tissue injury
  • Head trauma
  • Back injury
  • Brain trauma
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neck injury
  • Internal organ injury
  • Knee injury
  • Lower limb injury
  • Upper limb injury

What should I do if I’ve been in a traffic accident?

If you were involved in a car crash and suffered an injury, you may be able to file a personal injury claim. Statutes of limitations and comparative negligence laws vary by state. If you are unsure whether you have a claim, do not hesitate to contact a qualified personal injury attorney to discuss your options.

Contact a dependable Massachusetts personal injury attorney today

If you have been seriously injured in a car accident because of the negligence or recklessness of another person, contact us today for a free consultation. We work on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that you don’t pay unless we win your case. Representing clients nationwide, Thornton Law Firm LLP has been protecting Boston’s injured for 40 years. Call us today at 1-888-491-9726 or contact us online.

Motorcycle Accident

Representing motorcycle accident victims

Thornton Law Firm understands that motorcycle accident victims may face hurdles put in place by the insurance company’s defense lawyers. The insurance company’s lawyers are ethically bound to do what is best for their client — the insurance company. You should have attorneys on your side who are dedicated to securing the full and fair compensation you deserve. If you’re the victim of a motorcycle accident in Massachusetts, our experienced motorcycle accident lawyers can help.

Extensive personal injury experience

Whether your motorcycle accident involved another motorcycle or a car, truck, bus or pedestrian, we gather vital accident reports, police investigation records, medical records and witness statements. If the case involves a tractor-trailer or a bus, we seek crucial maintenance and repair records, driver training records and logs, evidence of compliance or noncompliance with rigorous Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations and other documentation to support your case.

Compassionate and serious injury attorneys

Massachusetts motorcycle accident data show that motorcycle accidents account for an unreasonably high number of devastating traffic accidents annually, resulting in brain injury, broken bones, spinal injury and death.

The results-oriented personal injury attorneys at Thornton Law Firm  understand the complex issues involved in Massachusetts motorcycle fatal accident and injury cases, including the following:

  • Massachusetts vehicle laws pertaining to motorcyclists
  • Motorcycle accident reconstruction
  • Roadway design and architecture as it relates to motorcyclists
  • Motorcycle design and manufacturing issues

Common causes of motorcycle accidents

In many motorcycle accidents involving a car or other type of motor vehicle, the negligent or inattentive driver on four or more wheels is at fault. Some of the common mistakes made by drivers include the following:

  • Swerving directly in front of a motorcyclist
  • Pulling out of an intersection or driveway into the path of an oncoming motorcycle
  • Failure to follow posted traffic laws or yield proper right of way
  • Failure to see a motorcyclist when changing lanes or passing other motor vehicles
  • Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol

Call today for a free consultation

Contact Thornton Law Firm LLP online or at 1-888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in personal injury litigation. Our legal representation is provided on a contingency-fee basis, which means that you don’t pay if we don’t win your case. We offer a fair and accurate assessment of your case, and we’re here when you need us most.

Bike Accident Victims

Bike accidents can be deadly

Bicycle accidents in the United States are all too common, with roughly a half-million accidents taking place each year. Of those accidents, 20,000 cyclists require hospital stays to recover from their injuries.

U.S. Department of Transportation statistics shows that more than 8,000 cyclists died and 700,000 were injured due to collisions with vehicles in the past decade. More than one-third of these fatalities involved riders from 5 to 20 years of age.

Common bike accident scenarios

With the prices of gas going up, more people are beginning to use bicycles as a means of transportation. And with more cyclists on the road, more bike accidents are bound to happen. Bicycle-related accidents range in severity from scrapes and bruises to traumatic brain injury and death. Frequently, the cause of a bike accident is not the cyclist but negligent automobile drivers. Below are some of the most common causes of bike accidents:

  • A vehicle pulling out in front of a bicycle
  • Opening a car door in front of a cyclist
  • Failing to yield properly
  • Ignoring a stop sign or stoplight
  • Drinking and driving
  • Turning into the path of a cyclist

Bike accidents result in a variety of injuries

Bicycle accidents can result in many different injuries depending on the severity of the crash and the objects involved. An overwhelming amount of bike fatalities involve cyclists without helmets. Even in a low-speed collision, the impact to the cyclist can cause severe injuries. Common bike accident injuries include the following:

  • Head injuries — Head injuries are extremely common in bicycle crashes and often result in death or a lifetime of disability. Those suffering from brain injuries may have different long-term effects depending on the severity of their accidents and the part of the brain that was affected. The most common brain injuries experienced by cyclists include contusions, concussions and skull fractures.
  • Spinal cord injuries — Bicycle accidents also result in a large number of spinal injuries. Victims may become paralyzed if the damage to the spinal cord is severed. Other injuries include cervical fractures and broken necks.
  • Broken bones — Fractures and broken bones are common consequences of bike wrecks. Some fractures are more serious than others depending on the location and degree of the break.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a bike accident, we are available to discuss your potential personal injury claim. You may have a right to recover compensation for your medical expenses, loss of wages and pain and suffering.

Contact a reputable Massachusetts personal injury attorney

If you have been injured in a bike accident because of someone’s negligence of another, contact us to arrange a free consultation. We work on a contingency-fee basis, so you have nothing to lose. Representing clients nationwide, Thornton Law Firm LLP is here when you need us most. Call us today at 1-888-491-9726 or contact us online.

Cellphone Use While Driving

Distracted driving is deadly

Distracted driving is when a driver engages in any activity that diverts attention from the primary task of driving. All distractions can endanger the driver, other drivers, passengers, and bystanders. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents in the United States, contributing to more than 5,000 traffic-related deaths each year.

Some of the most common types of distractions drivers indulge in are listed below:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading anything, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player

Most of these tasks are very simple, but it only takes a second of distraction for accidents to happen. Distracted driving is a leading cause of traffic-related personal injury claims.

Massachusetts bans the use of handheld devices

Cellphone use was dangerous enough in its own right, but smartphone use is often the common denominator in many distracted driving cases. In an attempt to curb the practice, Massachusetts passed a law in October 2010 banning use of certain handheld devices. In 2012, Massachusetts police officers wrote 1,700 tickets statewide for texting and driving.

Massachusetts’ current law limiting the use of handheld devices while driving punishes the following activities:

  • Text messaging — Bans all drivers from texting or engaging in any other internet-related activities while operating a vehicle. Fines for texting while driving start at $100 for the first offense and increase to $500 for a third offense.
  • Cellphones prohibited for minors — Drivers under age 18 are banned from using cellphones or any other mobile electronic device. Fines start at $100 for the first offense and increase to $500 for a third offense, plus graduated license suspension.
  • Public transit ban — School bus operators and other public transit drivers are banned from using cellphones while driving, and fines start at $500.

Cellphone use contributes to negligence

A contributory negligence theory prevents recovery for people who helped cause the accident in which they were injured. For example, if the driver of Car A is texting and gets sideswiped by Car B, causing the driver of Car A to run off the road, hit a utility pole and get injured, the driver of Car B may escape liability under a contributory negligence theory. This is so because Car A had the last clear chance to avoid the accident but failed to do so because the driver was texting, a negligent act that contributed to the cause of the injuries.

Call today to arrange a free consultation

Thornton Law Firm LLP has been protecting Boston’s injured for 40 years. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the attorneys at Thornton Law Firm LLP for a free consultation. We provide legal services in personal injury cases on a contingency-fee basis. You don’t pay unless we win your case for you. Call us today at 1-888-491-9726 or contact us online.

Fatal Vehicle Accidents

Fatal accidents require extensive investigation

In the event of a serious traffic accident, recreating the events and recording the details of the wreck quickly and accurately are vital for supporting your personal injury or wrongful death claim. Our attorneys know what steps to take immediately following an accident to preserve and protect as much evidence as possible for pursuing your personal injury claim down the road.

Many of the important details needed to reconstruct the accident are found in the area leading up to the accident, in addition to the crash site. Thornton Law Firm LLP has the resources necessary to engage accident reconstruction experts that can provide invaluable information to support your personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Variables such as what caused the accident and whether there were extenuating circumstances motivating the driver’s behavior are riddles accident experts aim to solve. The expert investigators with whom we work can provide the following:

  • High- and low-speed collision analysis
  • DUI-related collision reconstruction
  • Bicycle accident reconstruction
  • Semi-truck and commercial vehicle reconstruction
  • Fixed-object crash investigation
  • Pedestrian accident reconstruction
  • Angle- or side-impact analysis
  • Rear-end crash analysis
  • Head-on accident investigation
  • Rollover collision reconstruction
  • Railroad crossing accident investigation
  • Motorcycle accident reconstruction
  • Car, truck and SUV collision analysis
  • Vehicle black box accident reconstruction

Common causes of fatal accidents

Tens of thousands of people suffer the loss of family members because of car accidents each year. A wrongful death claim seeks to recover damages for the negligent or reckless actions of another person. If a person is killed because of the wrongful conduct of another individual, the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries may file a wrongful death action against the responsible party.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that males in every age group died more often in fatal car crashes than females, but females were injured more often. Drivers are killed more often in car wrecks than passengers. Some of the most common causes of fatal accidents include the following:

  • Alcohol use
  • Bad weather
  • Distractions
  • Marijuana use
  • Seizures
  • Speeding
  • SUV rollovers
  • Failure to look
  • Loss of control
  • Failure to use a seatbelt

Contact a reputable Massachusetts personal injury attorney

If you lost a loved one in a fatal traffic accident caused by the negligence or recklessness of another, contact us to arrange a free consultation. We provide quality legal representation on a contingency-fee basis, so you have nothing to lose. Thornton Law Firm LLP is here when you need us most. Call us today at 1-888-491-9726 or contact us online.

Workers’ Compensation

Our attorneys are well-versed in the complexities of workers comp law and have successfully represented thousands of workers in their dealings with insurance companies. We strive to ensure that injured workers achieve the best possible protection of their rights under their state’s workers compensation program.

When third parties such as co-workers, subcontractors, manufacturers, and property owners are responsible for work-related injuries, we also pursue third party claims against them to maximize the benefits received by clients.

Workers compensation information you might find useful:

Whether you suffer from a traumatic injury or an occupational disease such as carpal tunnel syndrome, asbestos exposure, or silicosis, Thornton Law Firm has the workers’ compensation experience necessary to secure the maximum benefits allowed by law.

Thornton Law Firm workers comp attorneys

Please visit our significant cases page to see our successes in personal injury and workers compensation cases.

When you need a personal injury or workers comp lawyer in Massachusetts

Contact the Boston law firm of Thornton Law Firm LLP online or at 1-888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a dedicated workers compensation and personal injury lawyer in Massachusetts. You have nothing to risk. We offer a fair and accurate assessment of your case.

Workers Compensation Injuries/Benefits

The workers compensation attorneys at Thornton Law Firm believe every injured client should fully understand the types of injuries that are covered and the benefits available to them and their families.

Pre-existing conditions and injuries

A common but mistaken belief is that a medical condition or injury that predates the start of employment is not compensable. An employee is not barred from receiving benefits simply because he or she has a pre-existing injury, disability, or medical problem. But, any new work-related injury must be a major (not necessarily predominant) cause of the disability or need for treatment.

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act requires an employer to accept an employee as is. If an incident at work aggravates a pre-existing condition in a major way so that the employee cannot work, the entire disability is work-related, and the insurer must pay benefits.

Occupational diseases

Workers in the manufacturing and construction industries are sometimes exposed to toxic substances. Diseases resulting from such exposures are covered. You can also be compensated for infectious or contagious diseases if the risk of infection is inherent in the employment. For example, the risk of contracting tuberculosis or hepatitis is inherent in healthcare employment.

To discuss your Workers Comp Injury and Benefits contact the Boston law firm of Thornton Law Firm online or at 1-888-491-9726 for a free consultation.

Heart attack

Heart disease, or coronary artery disease, may be caused by a variety of factors such as stress, diet, hereditary predisposition, and smoking. As already noted, benefits are not lost merely because an employee has a pre-existing condition.

Heart attacks can be brought on by physical or mental exertion in the workplace. When that is the case, an employee may be eligible for benefits, even with a pre-existing heart condition.

Heart attacks away from work

A heart attack need not take place at work to be compensable. If chest pain and/or other symptoms, such as nausea and sweating, started at work and were fairly regular until the time of the attack, the injury may be covered. The particular facts of each case, especially as reported at the time to co-workers, supervisors, and doctors, will determine the success of a claim.

Chronic trauma

Recovery of compensation benefits does not always depend on an employee’s ability to recall a specific incident that led to an injury. Some conditions, such as hernias and back problems, are the result of repetitious job functions that put stress on certain parts of the body. The cause of such injuries is called chronic trauma.

There are subtle differences between injuries due to chronic trauma and damage caused by the normal wear and tear of the job. Compensation is not awarded for normal wear and tear.

Some factors that distinguish chronic trauma from wear and tear are whether:

  • The particular stress is a characteristic of the job or common to everyday activity
  • The symptoms developed suddenly or gradually
  • There was a particularly stressful period of time which may have hastened or precipitated the injury

Many back ailments, problems with knees, and nerve damage are examples of chronic trauma injuries.

Mental or emotional illness

Disabling episodes of depression, anxiety, and other mental or emotional problems are compensable if a specific, stressful work incident (or series of events) is the predominant contributing cause of the illness. However, like other types of injury already discussed, mental or emotional disabilities are subject to the normal wear and tear rule.

The fact that a job is stressful is not enough to recover benefits for a nervous breakdown. There must be precipitating physical or mental trauma at work. This is an exception to the as is rule noted earlier. If an employee has a history of mental or emotional problems pre-dating employment, and the employee’s particular sensitivity makes him or her unsuited to the job, recovery of benefits is unlikely.

Mental or emotional injuries occurring after January 1, 1986, because of a bona fide (good faith) personnel decision—such as a transfer, demotion, or discharge—are not eligible for compensation. One exception is when a personnel decision amounts to intentional infliction of emotional harm.

Injuries on the employer’s premises

An employee does not actually have to be performing his or her job duties when injured in order to receive workers compensation. What is required is that the employee be on the premises. A slip and fall in the employer’s cafeteria during lunch or in the plant parking lot on the way into or home from work may be a compensable injury.

Travel injuries

The general rule is that accidents occurring while off the premises, but during travel to and from work, are not compensable. An exception is made for special trips required by the employer. This includes injuries that happen on business trips, travel between worksites, customer service calls, and during the pick-up and delivery of supplies or goods.

Other injuries

It would be impossible to list here all the types of injuries and related circumstances that are compensable. If you have an illness or condition that may be work-related, and have been out of work for five workdays, consult an attorney.

Benefits

Injured workers may be eligible for some or all of the following benefits:

  • Medical benefits
  • Total disability benefits
  • Partial disability benefits
  • Total and permanent disability benefits
  • Loss of function benefits
  • Disfigurement benefits
  • Vocational rehabilitation benefits
  • Double compensation benefits
  • Death benefits

In addition, in some cases, employees’ dependents and widows can receive benefits. Compensation benefits are not taxable.

Medical benefits

Workers compensation insurers (and self-insurers) must pay for all medical costs associated with the treatment of work-related injuries. This obligation continues as long as treatment is needed—sometimes for the duration of the worker’s life. The insurer pays the medical provider directly. Covered benefits include the cost of

  • Hospitalization
  • Office visits to doctors
  • Prescriptions
  • Surgical procedures
  • X-rays
  • Therapy
  • Travel to and from treatment
  • All other medical services

The maximum amount providers can charge is set by the state.

Temporary total disability benefits

An employee who is unable to engage in any gainful employment due to a work-related injury is considered totally disabled under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

To be eligible for disability benefits, the employee must be disabled for five calendar days. The days do not have to be consecutive, however, the days lost must be for the same injury. Weekends also count, whether or not work is scheduled.

If incapacity extends for a period of 21 days or more, compensation is paid from the date of onset of incapacity. If incapacity extends for a period of at least five but less than 21 days, compensation is paid from the sixth day of incapacity.

Weekly rate

Totally disabled employees are paid 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage up to a maximum amount. The maximum is set by the state of Massachusetts at 100% of the statewide average weekly wage. The Massachusetts average weekly wage is determined annually on October 1st by the Division of Employment Security, and remains in effect until September 30 of the next year.

Employee’s average weekly wage

An employee’s average weekly wage is based on total earnings for the 52 weeks prior to injury. Total earnings, including overtime, commissions, and bonuses, are divided by 52. Total earnings also include income from a second job worked at the time of injury, if the employee is also disabled from working that job.

If a worker has been with an employer less than 52 weeks at the time of the injury, the average is calculated by dividing total earnings by the number of weeks worked. Extremely short-term employees can use the average wage of a worker in the same job with the same employer or within the same industry.

State-established maximum rates

10/01/2002 $882.57 10/01/2008 $1,093.27
10/01/2003 $884.46 10/01/2009 $1,094.70
10/01/2004 $918.78 10/01/2010 $1,088.06
10/01/2005 $958.58 10/01/2011 $1,135.82
10/01/2006 $1,000.43  10/01/2012 $1,173.06
10/01/2007 $1,043.54  10/01/2013 $1,181.28

Maximum weekly benefit for injury on or after a specific date

Note: The minimum benefit is 20% of the state average weekly wage.

Maximum duration

Total disability benefits are payable for up to three years (156 weeks). After that, the employee is considered either partially or permanently and totally disabled. Partial disability benefits are payable for up to five years (260 weeks). Under most circumstances, the maximum period of total disability benefits plus partial disability is seven years (364 weeks). However, these periods may be extended under certain circumstances. An employee should consult an attorney if the period of benefits expires.

Partial disability benefits

Partially disabled employees are workers who are able to perform some duties from the date of injury or who were totally disabled but have improved to the point that they can work part-time. In either case, they are unable to earn their previous wages. These employees are eligible to receive weekly cash benefits equal to 60 percent of their lost earning capacity, up to the maximum set by the statewide average or, in case of initial total disability being replaced by partial, up to 75 percent of the previous total disability rate.

As suggested above, partial disability benefits are payable whether or not time is lost from work. Other examples include: injuries that cause an employee to reduce piece-rate earnings, and injuries that cause a reduction in hours worked.

Total and permanent disability benefits

Totally and permanently disabled employees are those whose injuries prevent them from ever working any job on a full-time or near full-time basis. They can receive compensation benefits for the rest of their lives. These total and permanent disability benefits are available after other disability benefits are exhausted. The benefits rate is two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage with the addition of a cost-of-living adjustment beginning two years after the injury date. However, this cost-of-living increase is not available if it reduces Social Security Disability Insurance benefits received by the employee.

Loss of function benefits

In addition to weekly cash payments for loss of earning capacity, employees whose injuries include permanent (total or partial) loss of a body part or sense are entitled to a one-time cash payment. This benefit is paid according to a schedule of rates based on multiples of the statewide average weekly wage at the time of injury. Partial loss of function is paid as a percentage of the scheduled rates.

Disfigurement benefits

Disfigurement—such as permanent scarring if it is on the face, neck, or hands—is also compensable according to guidelines established by the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA). Normally, this benefit will not be paid until at least six months from the date of injury and/or the last surgery. The amount paid depends on such factors as the location, length, width, and severity of scarring or disfigurement.

Vocational rehabilitation benefits

The insurer must pay the cost of vocational rehabilitation of employees whose injuries prevent a return to their previous occupations. This includes vocational counseling, placement assistance, and possible retraining for a different occupational field. If retraining is appropriate, these benefits include tuition, books, and transportation expenses. The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) determines if vocational rehabilitation is called for. Even though employee participation is voluntary, weekly compensation benefits may be reduced by 15 percent if the employee refuses the service or fails to cooperate with appropriate rehabilitation services.

Double compensation benefits

Employees injured as a result t of the employer’s serious and willful misconduct, may recover double the benefits discussed above. These cases are difficult to establish, since they require proof that the employer or supervisor acted deliberately, or knowingly disregarded an established safety standard.

Death benefits

If an employee’s death results from a work-related injury, the surviving spouse and dependent children will receive weekly death benefits. The spouse is entitled to weekly benefits at a rate similar to that of total and permanent disability benefits. These death benefits last five years or longer if the spouse is not fully self-supporting. If at any time the surviving spouse remarries, the benefits terminate automatically. However, minor or handicapped children may continue to receive up to $60 per week per child.

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