In June 2016 an Eversource employee was attacked by a pit bull in Natick, Massachusetts while notifying local residents about work that was scheduled to be performed in the area. It was reported that the Eversource employee was attempting to locate the owners of a home in Natick when a pit bull attacked the man, biting his arm and face. WikedLocal Natick recently reported that the Natick Board of Selectmen directed the Town Administrator to conduct a hearing to determine whether a pit bull accused of attacking a utility worker is dangerous.
In this type of a situation, where someone is injured while in the course of his employment, the injured employee has two separate and distinct claims that may be brought. One is a claim for workers’ compensation benefits and the other is a third party personal injury claim.
Massachusetts Workers Compensation
In Massachusetts, an employee that suffers a personal injury that arose out of the course of employment is entitled to certain benefits from workers compensation. Personal injury, under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, has been broadly defined to include “whatever lesion or change in any part of the system produces harm or pain or a lessened facility of the natural use of any bodily activity or capability.” In the reported story above, an employee attacked and injured by a dog would be entitled to workers comp benefits, if he qualifies.
If the work injury prevents an employee from being able to work and earn wages, then the employee can received disability benefits from their employer’s workers compensation insurance carrier. There are three types of disability benefits in Massachusetts: (1) Temporary Total Disability Benefits; (2) Temporary Partial Disability Benefits; and (3) Permanent and Total Disability Benefits. These benefits are designed to help replace a portion of the wages the injured worker is unable to earn due to their injuries.
An injured worker is also entitled to medical benefits. The Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws allow medical benefits for an injured worker to cover the cost of the medical bills and expenses for treatment that is reasonable, medically necessary, and causally related to the work injury.
Additionally, in the incident reported above, the worker attacked by the pit bull and bitten on the face (and possibly his hand) may be entitled to workers comp benefits for any disfiguring scars that the dog attack left. Workers’ comp benefits for scarring are available to employees, but only if the scarring appears on the face, hands or neck.
One important note, however, is that injured employees cannot sue or seek pain and suffering damages from their employer or workers compensation. This is a frequent question we are asked. But, in this example, an injured worker may be able to pursue a claim for damages, including pain and suffering, from a third party as discussed below.
Personal Injury Claim
A worker, who is attacked by a dog during the course of their employment, may purse a personal injury claim against the third party dog owner(s). Dog bite injuries are compensable in Massachusetts under the specific laws that covers dog bite injuries.
This means that an employee, who was attacked by a dog while working, may receive workers comp benefits and also seek additional damages for the dog bite injuries against the third party. This third party personal injury claim can seek financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering as well as scarring. One important note is that, in Massachusetts, the location of the scars on the body doesn’t matter for the third party personal injury claim, as opposed to workers comp. No matter where the scar is located, a claim may be sought. Although, the location of the scar will be relevant to the value of damages for the scar.
These types of cases can become complex. Therefore, it is highly recommended that if you are injured on the job due to the negligence of a third party (someone other than your employer) you should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. An experienced injury attorney will know all the benefits to pursue and seek the maximum damages the injured worker is entitled to.
Have you been hurt on the job and wonder if you have a third party claim, in addition to workers' compensation? If so, give us a call at (508) 879-3500 or contact us online. We are happy to answer your questions and provide a free case evaluation.