Thornton Law Firm attorneys are well versed in the complexities of workers compensation law and have successfully represented hundreds of workers in their dealings with insurance companies.
This guide explains how the compensation system works and offers suggestions to help protect your rights. It is geared toward workers injured on or after December 23, 1991, when a total revision of the Compensation Act became effective. If you were injured prior to December 23, 1991, your rights and responsibilities are different.
Free consultations, so you have nothing to lose
Under the 1991 law, most attorneys’ fees are paid by the insurer in successful claims. Under both the old and new laws, some firms, including Thornton Law Firm, charge no fee for initial consultation. It is therefore both legally and financially to your advantage to consult an attorney regarding any workers compensation-related questions.
What is Workers Compensation?
Workers compensation is insurance that nearly all Massachusetts public and private employers of all sizes are required by law to provide for their employees. It makes no difference whether an employer is characterized as a business-for-profit or a non-profit or charitable organization. In each case, workers compensation insurance must be provided.
Most employers buy coverage from an insurance company and the insurance company pays the benefits. Some employers, such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, are self-insured. This means that the employer pays benefits directly.
Some coverage exceptions
Very few employees are excluded from coverage. Major exceptions include employees of the federal government, railroads, shipyards, and maritime employers. Employees in those industries are covered by other compensation laws, such as the Longshoremen and Harborworkers Act and the Federal Employers Liability Act.
Workers compensation provides regular weekly payments, medical coverage, vocational training, and other benefits to workers injured in the course of their employment. This intended to provide prompt compensation for impairment of earning capacity. The Compensation Act sets strict deadlines for processing claims and imposes penalties on insurers who fail to make timely benefit payments when required.
Lawsuits against employers
In exchange for the faster and more predictable benefits of workers compensation, employees give up their rights to sue their employers in court. The right to sue for personal injury is automatically lost at the start of employment unless the employee gives the employer written notice of intent to preserve the right on the day of hire.
There is one exception: If an employer fails to carry workers compensation insurance in violation of the law, the injured employee can sue the employer in court. (The employee may file a claim for benefits from a special fund administered by the Department of Industrial Accidents.)
Workers compensation is a no-fault system
If you have a work-related injury, you are entitled to medical benefits. If you are disabled for at least five days of work, you also are entitled to disability benefits. You do not need to prove that anyone—employer, coworker, or third party—was negligent. Furthermore, you will not lose benefits even if you were at fault unless it can be shown that the injury was the result of your own serious and willful misconduct. Simple carelessness will not result in denial of benefits.
In some cases, an employee can receive workers compensation benefits and file a lawsuit against someone other than his or her employer or coworkers. An employee can file suit against a manufacturer, distributor, or another contractor who may be partly responsible for the work-related injury.
This is known as a third-party lawsuit. If the employee receives a money judgment in court, the worker’s compensation insurer has a right to recover amounts it paid in benefits from the court award. In fact, an insurer who has paid benefits can bring a third-party lawsuit against a negligent party in the employee’s name (subrogation.)
An injured employee who has filed a workers compensation claim has three main advantages in bringing a third-party action:
- He or she may ultimately recover a greater amount from a judge or jury than from workers compensation
- The employee may receive compensation benefits while waiting for trial
- The employee may receive a money judgment in court for pain and suffering. (There are no benefits for pain and suffering under workers compensation.)
For additional information, please see—
Trust our Massachusetts workers compensation attorneys to help
Contact the Boston law firm of Thornton Law Firm online or at 1-888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in workplace injury litigation. You have nothing to risk. We offer a fair and accurate assessment of your case.