In Massachusetts, if you’re a worker and you’ve sustained an injury while on the job, understanding the legal protections and options at your disposal is paramount. In the unfortunate event of a workplace accident, two distinct avenues for compensation often emerge: a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party liability claim.
Workers’ Compensation in Massachusetts
Generally, in Massachusetts, an employee can’t sue their employer for a work-related injury. Instead, the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act, Mass. General Laws c.152, serves as the primary safeguard for employees. This no-fault system ensures that if you’re injured on the job, you’re entitled to certain benefits regardless of who was at fault for the injury. These benefits encompass reasonable and necessary medical expenses, wage benefits, and vocational rehabilitation if you sustain a serious injury and are no longer able to work in your previous capacity.
However, there are exceptions to the rule against suing your employer. For instance, if your employer fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance, you, as an injured employee, may file a personal injury claim against your employer for the full spectrum of tort damages, as outlined in G.L. c. 152, §§ 66 and 67. Under these sections, the uninsured employer has no common law defenses. In addition, the employee in such cases may file a claim with the Department of Industrial Accidents and seek workers’ compensation benefits from the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund.
If your injury at work stems from your employer’s serious or willful misconduct, you might be entitled to double the workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to Section 28. To qualify, the employee must demonstrate that the employer’s actions were intentional or highly reckless, posing an unreasonably high risk of bodily harm. It’s important to understand that workers’ compensation disability benefits are capped at a certain percentage of the injured worker’s average weekly wage and are only available for a limited time period. Moreover, workers’ compensation does not cover pain and suffering damages.
Statute of Limitations for Workers’ Compensation Claims
General Laws c. 152, § 41 stipulates that a claim for benefits must be filed within four years from the date of the injury or from when the employee first became aware of the connection between their disability and their employment.
Beyond Workers’ Compensation: Third-Party Personal Injury Claims
While the workers’ compensation framework typically precludes you from suing your employer, scenarios exist where you can pursue additional legal action, particularly against negligent third parties. For instance, if a third party’s negligence (like another independent contractor on the construction site, faulty equipment, defective products, or negligent property owner) caused your injury, you have the right to initiate a third-party lawsuit against that entity. This path opens avenues to compensation not available under workers’ compensation, including full reimbursement for lost wages, medical costs, and pain and suffering damages.
In pursuing a third-party lawsuit, the injured worker must prove that the third party was negligent and that this negligence caused their injuries. Often, an injured worker will have two claims concurrently: a workers’ compensation claim and a third-party claim.
Worker’s Compensation Liens and Third-Party Claims
Under M.G.L. Chapter 152, section 15, the workers’ compensation insurer is authorized to place a lien on the third-party negligence claim and will be reimbursed upon the conclusion of the third-party claim.
Contact Us for a Free initial consultation
Navigating the complexities of workers’ compensation and third-party personal injury claims can be daunting, especially when you’re coping with the aftermath of serious injuries from a workplace accident.
At Gavagan Law, we are committed to evaluating the circumstances of your accident and collaborating with industry experts to identify negligent subcontractors and unsafe working conditions and pinpointing the third-party liability. We’re here to guide you through the legal process, and ensure your rights are protected and you receive the full compensation you deserve. Whether you’re dealing with a work-related car accident, a construction site injury, or other work accident, Gavagan Law is your trusted partner. Contact us today using our contact form for a free consultation, and let our expertise in workers’ compensation claims and third-party negligence cases work for you.