The most common concern for workers hurt on the job in Massachusetts who are unable to return to work is how they are going to pay their bills if they cannot work. Fortunately, for those workers, the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides qualifying injured workers with weekly payments to replace a portion of the wages they are unable to earn. The weekly payments are commonly referred to as disability benefits or incapacity benefits.
There are three types of weekly disability benefits available under the law in Massachusetts. They are as follows:
- Temporary Total Disability Benefits (Section 34 benefits). These benefits are payable to employees whose work injury leaves them unable to work for six or more days. The payments will be 60% of the employee’s gross average weekly wage. The injured employee can receive these benefits for up to 3 years (or 156 weeks).
- Temporary Partial Disability Benefits (Section 35 benefits). If the employee’s injury still allows them to work, but they are losing part of their pay because of their work-related injury, then the employee may qualify for partial disability payments. The partial disability benefits are calculated as 60% of the difference between your average weekly wage as of the date of your injury and the amount of money you are able to earn after your work injury. The maximum payments, however, for partial disability is no more than 75% of your total disability benefits discussed above in No. 1. Partial disability benefits are available for up to 5 years (or 260 weeks)(or 4 years if you were paid all 3 years of your total disability benefits).
- Permanent and Total Disability Benefits (Section 34A). These payments are for employees who are totally and permanently unable to work because of their injury. The employee must be unable to perform any kind of work at all. The payments are two-thirds (or 66.67%) of the employee’s average weekly wage and are payable to the injured worker for as long as he/she remains disabled. Employees, who are deemed permanently and totally disabled, are also entitled to cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).
Make Sure You Receive the Disability Benefits You Are Entitled To Under Massachusetts Law
While an injured worker may be eligible for disability benefits after being injured on the job in Massachusetts, the worker should make sure they are getting the right benefits and the proper amount. In our experience handling many worker’s compensation claims in Massachusetts, many injured workers rely on the insurance company to decide which of the above disability benefits and how much they receive. In some cases, the insurance company may only be paying partial disability when they should be paying total disability benefits. Similarly, even if the insurance company voluntarily pays the correct type of disability benefits, they may not be paying the proper amount.
For example, we represented a woman who hurt her lower back on the job in a distribution warehouse in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Her injury prevented her from returning to work and her employer’s workers’ comp insurance company began paying her temporary total disability. The reason she contacted our workers’ comp lawyers is because she wasn’t sure she was receiving the right amount of weekly disability checks. After an initial consultation, we determined she was right. The insurance company grossly underestimated her average weekly wage. This resulted in her receiving much less than she should have been receiving under the law. Recall, the disability benefits are determined using the injured worker’s average weekly wage. So, the higher the average weekly wage, the higher the weekly disability benefits. We filed a claim for this injured worker and were successful in recovering a significant amount of retroactive disability benefits and made sure she continued to receive the right amount.