Proposed Bill Would Expand Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Workers Who Suffer Disfiguring Job-Related Scarring
The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system was established to provide “no fault” accident benefits to employees who are hurt on the job. Each year, over 3,000 employees are injured at work across the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, many hurt workers suffer debilitating and disfiguring scars due to workplace explosions, chemical burns, and other safety hazards.
Since 1991, a Massachusetts employee may not receive compensation for a work-related disfiguring scar unless it affects the worker’s “face, neck, or hands.” As a result, a worker who sustains arm, leg, or torso scarring will not typically receive workers’ compensation benefits for their permanent disfigurement. A bill that was recently filed with the Massachusetts Senate could change this restriction.
The proposed law would remove the location requirement for permanent scarring from the Commonwealth’s Workers’ Compensation Act. The bill would also change the compensation available to an employee who was permanently disfigured by a burn to 30 times the worker’s average weekly wage. Although insurers and employee advocates reportedly support such a proposal, it does not appear to be a priority for lawmakers. In fact, at least two similar proposals were unsuccessful in recent years.
According to one of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Sean Garballey, many legislators see the permanent scarring of a worker’s body or legs as a cosmetic issue. Garballey stated he believes such an injury also has a significant effect on a hurt employee’s “quality of life.”
In 1991, Massachusetts implemented significant workers’ compensation system reforms in an apparent effort to reduce costs and attract more businesses to the state. As a result, temporary total disability benefits were reduced to 60 percent of a hurt worker’s average weekly wage. The maximum period of time an injured employee may receive such benefits was also reduced from five to three years. In addition, a private bureau was created to monitor and investigate suspected workers’ compensation insurance fraud. The Commonwealth was not alone in reforming its workers’ compensation system. Since 2003, 33 states have reportedly reduced or eliminated certain benefits available to a worker who was injured on the job.
In Massachusetts, employees who cannot work for at least five days as a result of a workplace injury are eligible to receive weekly financial compensation and medical care. Additionally, workers’ compensation benefits are available to the surviving spouse and any dependents of a person who was killed due to a work-related accident or illness. In some situations, vocational retraining is also available if an employee’s on-the-job injury prevents the worker from returning to his or her prior occupation.
If you or someone you love sustained a permanent and disfiguring injury at a Massachusetts workplace, you should contact a knowledgeable Boston workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your rights. The caring lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are available to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve based on the severity of your work-related accident harm. To discuss your right to recover workers’ compensation benefits with a veteran attorney, call Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. at 800-367-0871 or contact us through our website.
Some Disfigured Employees Not Compensated for Scarring in Massachusetts, by Justine Hofherr, Boston.com