What you should know about workers' compMany employees who were hurt on the job will be able to return to work, but some will suffer long-term or even permanent disabilities. The good news is that the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) will provide workers’ compensation disability benefits to employees who cannot return to their previous employment. However, it may take the help of a workers’ compensation attorney to get you all the payment you are owed under the law. 

The Importance of Your Impairment Rating

Immediately after you’re injured on the job, you’re considered temporarily but totally disabled—in other words, 100% disabled for a short period. As your injuries heal, your percentage of disability gradually reduces until you’re back to your pre-injury condition.

However, not all injuries will heal completely. After weeks or months of recovery, your doctor may inform you that your condition isn’t likely to improve even with more treatment. This point in your recovery is known as maximum medical improvement (MMI). If you reach MMI but still have physical limitations, your doctor will need to make a disability assessment to determine your impairment rating.

Your impairment rating is vital to your workers’ compensation case. The percentage of impairment assigned by the doctor directly affects the amount of your disability payments, so it should accurately reflect your limitations and abilities.

Your doctor will rate your disability by assigning a percentage (from zero to 100%) for each body part or area affected by the accident and potential limitations when performing various tasks. For example, if your right arm is 25% impaired and your back is 50% impaired, your ability to lift and carry or sit for long periods may be significantly restricted. Your total disability percentage may result in a 100% impairment rating if you have multiple injuries.

Benefits for Temporary and Permanent Disability

The amount of your benefits and the length of time you can collect payments will depend on whether you are totally or partially disabled. All benefits are calculated using a percentage of your average weekly wage (AWW) or your earnings over the 52 weeks before the injury date. Your average weekly wage should include your regular pay rate and any bonuses and overtime, mileage, lodging, parking, and expense reimbursements.

Temporary Total Disability Benefits

In the days after your injury, you may collect temporary total disability benefits. These are paid to employees who cannot work for six or more days but are expected to return to work after their injuries heal. Payments are set at 60% of the employee’s AWW and can be paid for a maximum of 156 weeks (three years).

Temporary Partial Disability Benefits

If you can work but are temporarily earning less than your pre-injury capacity, you may collect temporary partial disability payments. Payments are set at 60% of the difference between your AWW on the date of your injury and the amount of your earnings after your work injury. However, your partial disability payments must be less than 75% of your temporary total disability benefits.

Permanent and Total Disability Benefits

For workers who are severely injured on the job and are unable to return to gainful employment, there are permanent and total disability benefits. These benefits fall under M.G.L. c. 152 § 34A and are calculated as two-thirds (2/3) of the employee’s average weekly wage. To receive these benefits, the injured worker must be unable to perform any kind of work at all. These are lifelong workers’ compensation payments to the injured worker or for as long as the worker remains permanently and totally disabled.  Employees, who are deemed permanently and totally disabled, are also entitled to cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

Specific Loss Awards in Massachusetts

In addition to workers' compensation disability benefits, you could receive an award for the permanent loss of function of certain body parts. The amount awarded is set by Massachusetts state law using the state's average weekly wage (SAWW) and depends on the body part and the extent of your loss. Some specific losses include and many more:

  • Loss of an eye - SAWW multiplied by 39
  • Loss of both eyes - SAWW multiplied by 96
  • Loss of hearing in one ear - SAWW multiplied by 29
  • Loss of hearing in both ears - SAWW multiplied by 77
  • Amputation or permanent total loss of use of a dominant arm - SAWW multiplied by 43
  • Amputation or loss of use of a non-dominant arm - SAWW multiplied by 39
  • Amputation or loss of use of both arms - SAWW multiplied by 96

Our MA Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Can Help

Workers’ compensation insurers want to pay as little as possible for disability claims. The insurance company might dispute your claim, challenge your disability rating, or suggest you can do part-time or sedentary work. They might also offer a lump sum settlement instead of monthly payments.

If you’ve suffered a severe work injury, you should always seek the advice of an attorney before you agree to a settlement. Your choice of representation makes a significant difference in your financial future, so you should speak to Mahaney & Pappas, LLP as soon as possible. Please contact us online, or call 508-879-3500 to schedule a free case evaluation. 


Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury lawyer & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.