Archive for April, 2016

What You Need to Know About the Cost of Work Injuries in Mass.

Let’s say you were seriously injured in a workplace accident in Massachusetts. Perhaps you lost an arm in a machinery accident. Your employer has workers’ compensation, as required by law. So that means you will receive money and benefits as part of your settlement.

But you might be surprised to find out that the compensation you are entitled to receive for that loss is, on average, lower in Massachusetts than it is in many other states – much lower.  According to data from Pro Publica, the average amount of compensation for a lost arm in Massachusetts is $52,245. That’s more than three times less than the average cost in the United States for the loss of an arm, $169,878.

In Massachusetts, compensation for many other serious injuries is below the national average. According to Pro Publica, many catastrophic injuries, including the loss of a leg, an ear or an eye, will result in lower compensation than in other states. Here’s a breakdown of numbers from Pro Publica. The first number represents the maximum compensation in Massachusetts while the second number represents the national average.

  • Leg: $47,385; $153,221
  • Hand: $41,310; $144,930
  • Thumb: $16,524; $42,432
  • Index finger: $10,327; $24,474
  • Middle finger: $8,262; $20,996
  • Ring finger: $4,131; $14,660
  • Pinky: $2,065; $11,343
  • Foot: $35,235; $91,779
  • Big toe: $6,342; $23,436
  • Eye: $47,385; $96,700
  • Ear: $35,235; $38,050

How an Attorney Can Make a Difference

Some injured workers in Massachusetts might wonder, why hire an attorney? After all, the cost of the loss is spelled out. But there are many cases where a workers’ comp lawyer is critical. The claims process can be complicated in Massachusetts. The laws are complex. It’s not unusual for employers to dispute a claim by an injured worker. The employer and its insurance company might be unresponsive. The employer and its insurance carrier might make unreasonable demands such as asking you to come in to work even though you’re injured. The insurance company might not be paying your medical bills for legitimate treatment.

These are a few of the reasons why you need an experienced attorney at your side.

Deborah G. Kohl has more than 30 years’ experience representing clients seriously injured while working. She knows how to fight for every penny you deserve after a catastrophic accident.

The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl offers free consultations to every potential client. You won’t have to worry about paying anything up front. Massachusetts law requires that the insurance company for your employer must pay your attorney’s fee if you win the case. You need to call Deborah G. Kohl today if you or a loved one was injured at work. We invite you to contact us and ask us any questions you have about your case.

Coal CEO Gets Maximum Sentence – But is it Enough?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyOver the years, a coal company called Massey has received numerous citations and has been fined numerous times for safety violations. The citations and fines did not do anything to prompt the behavior to change. Often, fines and penalties imposed by Occupational Safety and Health Administration aren’t effective at forcing companies to follow safety best practices because the consequences of violations aren’t very severe. It can sometimes make more financial sense for companies to just keep violating the rules and deal with the penalties, especially as OSHA is understaffed and inspections are few and far between.

At Massey, the safety violations eventually had extremely tragic consequences. A buildup of coal dust and flammable gases like methane developed within one of the company’s mines at Upper Big Branch.

An explosion and terrible fire broke out, and 29 coal miners were killed in the incident. Federal authorities became involved at this time, prosecuting the CEO of the company as well as several other executives for their role in the deaths of the miners. The CEO has now been sentenced, but his sentence raises serious questions about whether the laws at any level are set up to provide appropriate protection to workers and appropriate consequences for blatant violations of safety rules.

CEO Faces Maximum Sentence

Safety News Alert reported the CEO received the maximum sentence allowed by law after his conviction based on charges brought by federal prosecutors in connection with the mine explosion. The CEO is the most prominent coal executive ever to face charges, and hearing he received the maximum sentence should seem like good news for worker safety advocates as a harsh sentence on a CEO could serve as a strong message not to put profit before people.

The problem is, the maximum sentence is only one year imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. The CEO will also have a year of supervised probation after serving his prison term.  The sentence is for the crime of one misdemeanor for conspiring to violate mine safety rules.  Prosecutors had also tried to convince a jury to find him guilty of charges related to securities fraud and making false statements. Had he been convicted on fraud charges, he could have faced up to 30 years in prison. Instead, for the conviction for the safety violation, the maximum penalty was just a year.

Many are questioning whether this is enough of a deterrent, or a sufficient punishment for the CEO in this case. Prosecutors show the CEO was a micro-manager who required progress reports every half hour. Evidence also indicates he directly provided instructions which led to cutting corners on safety issues to maximize profits.

Despite the relatively lenient sentencing considering his role in the deaths of 29 people, reports indicate he plans to appeal and hopes to get only a fine and probation for his conviction. He said at his sentencing that he felt sorry for the families but did not believe he had committed a crime with his actions. The minor penalties imposed by law seem to suggest if he did commit a crime, it wasn’t a serious one- despite the devastating consequences of a callous disregard for worker safety.