Can You Sue If You Accept Workers Compensation?
If you suffer from injuries in the workplace, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp. in Massachusetts allows employees to receive payments to help pay for any medical bills, treatments, and compensate for the time they are unable to work due to their sustained injuries.
To receive workers’ compensation, employees must file a claim with the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) in Massachusetts if their employer does not voluntarily give them workers’ compensation benefits and they were disabled while in the course of their employment.
Am I Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
To claim workers’ compensation benefits, employees must have suffered injuries for 5 full or partial non-consecutive calendar days before filing a claim. Here is a list of the full requirements for workers’ compensation eligibility in Massachusetts:
- You must be a current employee during the time of the incident
- The injuries sustained came while you are at work
- Your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance
- File your claim on time
For “medical only” claims, in which you are disabled for less than 5 full or partial calendar days, employees only need to file with their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company, not the DIA.
What Determines the Cost of Workers’ Compensation?
The cost of an approved claim for workers’ compensation is impacted by a variety of factors. Medical bills, reports, loss of income due to the incident, number of treatments, and the time it takes for injuries to heal all impact the amount of workers’ compensation that an employee receives.
Workers’ compensation helps employees pay for medical bills that result from the diagnosis and treatment of injuries sustained in the workplace. When filing a claim, you must keep a record of all documentation you receive as a result of the injury.
The Department of Industrial Accidents will need documentation of each visit to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. This includes both medical reports and bills.
Loss of Income
Injuries sustained in the workplace may force an employee to have to take days off from work. Workers’ compensation allows employees to be partially compensated for their loss of income due to being unable to work.
Typically, the payout is equal to 60% or less of the amount that an employee would receive if they worked during those days that they missed due to injury. To determine compensation for loss of income, the DIA will need records of the 1st and 5th calendar day of work that the employee missed.
If you know how many days you will be out of work due to a workplace injury, the DIA considers that as well when determining compensation.
Beyond typical treatments for broken/fractured bones and other workplace sustained injuries, doctors may require further treatment through rehabilitation. This process can increase the amount of time that an employee is unable to work due to their injuries.
The DIA considers rehabilitation for workers’ compensation and will require documentation of all visits to a doctor, physical therapist, or other medical practitioners. If the rehabilitation continues for a long period of time, employees can also get documentation from their hospital or other rehabilitation centers with a projected amount of time or number of visits they will have to recover from their injury.
Can I Sue My Employer?
In most cases in Massachusetts, if you have already claimed workers’ compensation benefits, you are unable to sue your employer over your work-related injuries. However, you may have the option to sue third parties who contributed to the incident that led to your injuries.
For example, say you work at a construction company, and you were injured while operating machinery. Your employer had requirements in place for operating the machinery safely, and all those safety measures were in place when you operated the equipment.
Even if you received workers’ compensation, you may be able to sue the company that makes the machinery. If your injury resulted because of the machinery itself, which malfunctioned due to negligence during its manufacturing, the fault is with a third party. In this case, it may be the manufacturing company.
In another example, say you are driving for work and are struck by a negligent driver. Even though you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation, you can still sue that driver.
OSHA Workplace Rights and Employer Responsibilities
Under the United States Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) aims to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for all employees at a business.
OSHA covers private sector workers, state and local governments, and federal government workers. Under OSHA, employees have the right to do the following:
- File a confidential complaint to have their workplace inspected
- Receive clear information and training for workplace hazards
- Request to review records of past workplace injuries and illnesses
- Receive copies of any records regarding tests or monitoring of workplace hazards
- Receive copies of their workplace medical records
- Speak with an OSHA inspector or private inspector about the condition of their workplace
- File a complaint with OSHA if an employer reprimands them for requesting an inspection
- File a complaint if they were punished for speaking with OSHA about the condition of their workplace
Employers have a responsibility to both OSHA and their employees to provide a safe and healthy working atmosphere. They must follow all of OSHA’s standards for safety in the workplace and regularly inspect and monitor hazards.
Third-Party Involvements in the Workplace
To sue a third party, they must have played a role in the events that led to your workplace injury. Many paths could have resulted in a third party being responsible for a workplace injury.
For example, a school janitor who is in regular contact with the same brands of cleaning supplies suddenly becomes ill when using the products. This resulted because of a manufacturing error during production that led to a hazardous chemical being put into the cleaning product.
After the incident, the product is in the news because it got recalled, and a warning is issued to anyone who came into contact with that batch. In this case, the third party is the cleaning manufacturer, who played a role in the janitor’s illness.
In another example, a delivery truck driver was driving a company truck when they got into an accident. On impact, they were injured because the airbag failed to deploy. The company that manufactures the trucks is the third party at fault for the delivery truck driver’s injury because of an error that caused the airbag’s failure. In addition, if the other driver was at fault, the delivery truck driver can sue the other driver.
Seeking Legal Advice for Work-Related Injuries
If you think that your workplace injuries in the state of Massachusetts were a direct result of a third party, you should seek legal advice to consider your next steps.
Bonville & Howard Attorneys at Law has a legal team with decades of experience who can assess your unique situation and provide expert legal advice. They can help you determine what the best next steps are to take and whether you have a strong claim to pursue legal action against a third party.
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