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Workers Compensation Frequently Asked Questions

If you are hurt at work in Massachusetts and are unable to work there are certain rights you should know about. The law office of Robert L. Noa has 20 years of experience representing people who have been hurt and become disabled while at work. In order to help you learn about your rights in a relaxed environment attorney Robert Noa has prepared a Special Free Report that can be mailed direct to you. This report will tell you about inside secrets that insurance companies do not want you to know about. The Free Report is informative and easy to read. Just call (617) 423-2228 or email RNOA@RCN.COM to get your copy of this valuable information package. You will not be pressured to do anything at all. Just leave your name, address and say you want a copy of the Workers Compensation Free Report. A copy will be mailed direct to you within one business day.

The Massachusetts workers compensation statute can be found at Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts General Laws. Among those rights that you have if you are hurt at work are: 1.) The right to be paid disability compensation for the period of time that you cannot work, 2.) The right to have the workers compensation insurance company pay for all of your reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to the accident, 3.) The right to be paid for what is called “loss of function” if your injury leaves you with some type of permanent restriction with the use of your injured body part and 4.) The right to seek vocational retraining or job placement if your injury will permanently restrict you from going back to the job you performed when you got hurt.

1. Do I have the right to be paid disability compensation?

The Massachusetts workers compensation system is designed to get an injured worker from point A where they are hurt and disabled to point B where, hopefully, they are recovered and able to go back to work in a productive and pain free capacity. If you are totally disabled from work you are entitled to be paid sixty percent [60%] of your ‘average weekly wage’ for each week you are completely disabled. Your ‘average wage’ is defined as the total earnings you had in the 52 weeks prior to the accident divided by 52. If you did not work a full year at the time you got hurt your ‘average wage’ will usually be based on the actual wages earned over the number of weeks you were actually employed. The law gives a maximum of three [3] years where you could collect what is called ‘temporary total disability’ compensation.

If your injuries prevent you from going back to work at your usual occupation but you are capable of working in a reduced capacity then you may be eligible to receive what is called ‘temporary partial disability’ compensation. This is commonly called partial disability compensation. Partial disability is paid at sixty percent [60%] of the difference between what you used to make and what you are currently able to make. Partial disability can be paid for up to five [5] years.
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2. Do I have the right to have my medical bills paid for?

Yes. All reasonable and related medical costs are to be paid by the workers compensation insurance carrier for your employer. Examples of this would be ambulance bills, emergency room visits, doctor visits, X-rays or other diagnostic tests, surgery, physical therapy and second opinion consultations. The workers compensation insurance company, however, does not have to pay for other unrelated medical costs if, for example, you get the flu. Insurance companies will, unfortunately, decline to pay medical care for an injured worker for any number of reasons. If you and your doctor say that a requested form of treatment is related to the work accident but the insurance refuses to pay for it you can take the insurance company to court to force them to pay.
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3. Do I have the right to be paid for ‘loss of function’?

Yes. Sometimes a person will suffer injury to a part of their body that was perfectly normal prior to the accident. At times an injury does not heal properly or will need surgery. Other times a person will be left with chronic pain or limitations for no reason at all. Regardless of why chronic pain or limitation exist after an accident, if your doctor tells you that you will have a permanent ‘loss of function’ to a part of your body the law allows you to claim financial compensation for that permanent injury.
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4. What about scarring or other forms of disfigurement?

Scars that are linear in nature are compensable only if they are visible on the face, neck or hands. Other forms of disfigurement elsewhere on the body such as burns can be the basis for financial compensation under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Statute. A permanent limp can be compensable and even a doctor telling you that you will permanently require the use of a cane can be the basis of a financial award.
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5. Do I have the right to choose my own doctor?

Yes. This is very important, you have the right to be seen by and get treatment from a doctor or medical provider of your own choosing. Many employers will tell you that you have to go to a certain hospital, clinic or doctor. Unless you have a collective bargaining agreement, written contract or other agreement with your employer that says otherwise, no employer or insurance company can make you treat with a doctor that you do not want to see. An insurance company can, from time to time, request that you see an independent medical examiner of their choosing but you may receive actual treatment from whomever you wish.
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6. What is my right to apply for or receive Vocational Rehabilitation?

Sometimes a person suffers an injury that is so serious that they will no longer be able to return to the work that they used to do though they are capable of doing some kind of alternate work. In this situation the injured worker may apply for job placement help with the Office of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation [or OEVR] with the Department of Industrial Accidents. It is important to note at the outset that OEVR will only provide services if the injured worker has at least a high school education or GED. OEVR works on a two step plan. The first step is to ask if they can help find a person work that they can safely do taking into consideration the persons age, education, training, transferable skills and prior average weekly wage. If OEVR can help find a person suitable alternate work then they will have done their job. If they cannot place a person into a new line of work only then will they look into sending the person back to school or other courses designed to give the person new skills with which to reenter the work force.
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7. How does the attorney get paid?

Attorney’s fees for all workers compensation cases are paid on what is called a ‘contingent fee basis’. What this means is that you will never be sent a bill by an attorney. There are two ways that an attorney fee can be paid with a workers compensation case. The first is if we have to go to court and we win what we are after. This could be disability payments if an insurance company refuses to pay a disabled worker, approval for necessary medical care denied by an insurance company, payment for a persons ‘loss of function’ or any of these. If we go to court and the judge orders benefits for the client the judge will also order the insurance company to pay the attorney a fee. In other words, if we go to court and win it is the insurance company that has to pay the attorney the fee! The other way that a fee could be paid with a workers compensation case is if the case results in what is called a ‘lump sum settlement’ —  in other words, a cash settlement. Please know that a workers compensation injury, unlike most other types of personal injury, does not entitle you to make a claim for ‘pain and suffering’. You do not have a right to claim a cash settlement. Your rights are as listed above [disability, medical and perhaps loss of function or retraining] but you do not have a right to claim a cash settlement at the end. Now, having said that, many cases will in fact end up in a cash settlement but that is because all parties involved have agreed that such a resolution is in the best interests of all parties. If all parties do not agree then a cash settlement is not likely to happen. If a case does result in a settlement the attorney’s fee and expenses will be deducted from the total settlement. With workers compensation cases the fee, by law, cannot be more than twenty percent [20%].
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8. What if my employer turns out to be uninsured?

If an employer does not carry workers compensation insurance coverage as they are required by law you are still protected. The Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund is a state fund that will step in and act as the insurance company in any instance where a Massachusetts employer does not have the proper coverage. The Trust Fund will pay disability compensation, medical care, loss of function and any other reasonable and appropriate cost the same as a private insurer.
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9. Can I claim workers compensation if I worked under the table?

Yes; however, you must be able to prove that you were, in fact, paid by your employer and, because your disability pay is based on how much your weekly gross [before taxes, deductions, etc.] income is you must be able to prove how much you were paid per week. If your boss gave you a business check but just did not take any deductions then it is fairly easy to prove your earnings. But if you were paid in cash then you most likely will have to show bank deposit receipts of a regular nature to show how often and how much you were paid. Other useful evidence would be federal or state tax returns showing that you paid taxes on the income you received.
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10. Will I be paid workers compensation if I did not declare all of my income such as tips?

This is a question most often asked by people working in service industry jobs such as wait staff at restaurants and clubs who are often paid a very low hourly rate and depend on tips / gratuities for a significant portion of their income. Similar to the answer in question number 9, if injured you will be paid compensation based only on wages that can be proven. If you did not declare your tips or declared only a portion of your tips in tax records you will not be able to claim compensation on those wages.
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11. What if I am not legally in the United States? Can I still claim disability compensation if hurt on the job?

Yes; under current law your legal status in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not considered if you are gainfully employed and sustain injury in the course of your employment for a Massachusetts employer.
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12. Am I entitled to a settlement for my pain and suffering?

No. As discussed earlier, your ‘rights’ under the Massachusetts workers compensation law are to receive disability pay for the period of your incapacity, for the insurer to pay your reasonable and related medical costs, and for vocational assistance if appropriate. The Massachusetts Legislature does not provide an absolute ‘right’ to be paid for pain and suffering in addition to lost wages. Now, it is true that many workers comp cases do result in a settlement. But that is because it makes good business sense for both the insurer and the employee to come to terms rather than engage in a long term struggle that might not be to either parties benefit.
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The law office of Robert L. Noa is committed to protecting the rights of the injured worker and helping them to receive the best medical care they can get so they can return to work and get on with the most important thing of all —  enjoying their lives. Please contact me for a free consultation if you have any further questions.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Noa

Law Office of Robert L. Noa, 180 Canal St #500, Boston MA 02114 United States
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