Archive for December, 2020

What workers’ compensation benefits can I get in Massachusetts and Rhode Island?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Workplace injuries can be devastating, but finding out that you need to take several months off from work can make matters worse. You rely on your job to make ends meet and you may be wondering how you will put food on the table while you recover from your injury.

The good news is, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation. This system provides financial support to injured workers who must take time off from work after an injury. But the insurance companies responsible for issuing benefits to injured workers will not readily compensate you. The process is much more complex than you may realize. Here’s what you need to know before filing a claim.

Benefits covered by workers’ compensation

In Massachusetts, workers’ compensation benefits pay for:

  • Medical expenses. This includes adequate and reasonable medical care, prescriptions, and mileage reimbursement when traveling to medical appointments. Your medical expenses are covered for as long as they have to be until you recover.
  • Wage loss if you’re unable to work. In Massachusetts, workers who miss more than six calendar days of work can receive 60% of their gross average weekly wages for the 52 weeks before an injury for up to 156 weeks.
  • Wage loss if you’re able to work but earn less than you did prior to your injury. If you’re still able to work, but have to take a lower-paying job due to your injury, you can receive 75% of your weekly total temporary benefits. If you were unable to work, you would receive 60% of your gross average weekly wages. If you are able to work, you would receive 75% of the 60%.
  • Permanent disability. If you’re unable to return to work because of a permanent injury or disability, you may be eligible for 66% of your gross average weekly wages for as long as you’re disabled.
  • Vocational rehabilitation. If you were out of work for a considerable amount of time due to an injury, you may be able to receive vocational training in order to return to the workforce.

You must be an employee in Massachusetts or Rhode Island

Employers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are required by law to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Some businesses get around this law by classifying workers as independent contractors. In order to classify a worker as an independent contractor, a company must prove that the contractor:

  • Works independently without any direction or control
  • Performs duties outside of the usual course of business
  • Performs duties under his or her own business or trade

If this can’t be proven, the company you work for may have illegally misclassified you as an independent contractor. If you’re in Massachusetts, you can report your misclassification of work to the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division. In Rhode Island, you can report it to the Department of Labor and Training.

You must follow specific procedures to file a workers’ compensation claim

If you were hurt on the job, you need to promptly report your injury to your employer. It’s best to do so in writing so you have a record of your report. You should also get medical attention as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis of your injury, as well as recommendations from your doctor. For example, if you sustained a knee injury, you may learn that you need an operation.

In addition, your doctor may tell you that you need to take time off from work for several months and that you should avoid certain activities until you recover. When seeing your doctor, make sure you mention that you were hurt at work. Your medical evaluation, diagnosis and doctor recommendations should all be documented so they can be reviewed by an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.

In order to file a workers’ compensation claim, you need to know:

  • The date of your injury or work-related illness
  • The date of your loved one’s death if it was work-related
  • The 1st and 5th calendar day you missed work as a result of your injury
  • Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier
  • The type of injury you sustained and the body part that was affected
  • How long you will need to be out of work
  • The types of benefits you’re pursuing
  • Where you initially went for medical treatment
  • The doctor who is currently treating you

You will also need to provide:

  • Your unpaid medical bills
  • Your documented medical evaluation and/or medical records
  • An incident report indicating how your workplace accident occurred
  • Witness names and statements

Contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for help with your claim

If you were hurt on the job, you deserve to be compensated for every dollar you’re entitled to. Any errors in the filing process can result in benefits being delayed or denied. That’s why you need to put experience on your side. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl has several years of experience helping injured workers get the benefits they deserve.

We serve clients in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Contact us online or call us to get started on your claim. You won’t have to pay for your case evaluation, and we won’t charge you for our legal services unless we win your case.

Long-term opioid use among injured workers

It’s a public health crisis

It may not be getting the same attention in 2020 thanks to the much more prominent public health crisis, but we’re still suffering from an opioid crisis, too. A recent study published in Safety+Health Magazine found a strong link between workers’ compensation claims and long-term opioid use.

The study, which examined data among workers with significant injuries in 33 states, found that workers who were prescribed a 15- to 30-day supply of opioids within 90 days of their injuries were at substantially elevated risk of longer-term opioid dispensing. That risk increased even further among workers who were prescribed a dose of over 500 milligrams.

Other risk factors included having a higher number of opioid prescriptions early in a claim, simultaneously receiving opioids and other nervous system depressants, and length of time between the injury and the initial opioid prescriptions. The study found that workers aged 35-64 were at elevated risk.

Safe pain management is often a struggle in workers’ comp claims

Managing pain is an important part of treating many types of work injuries, both short-term and long-term. Some work injuries, such as burns and broken bones, are extremely painful for a relatively short period of time. Others, like back and knee injuries, may cause chronic pain that the worker has to live with for the rest of their life.

Unfortunately, when it comes to pain medication, it’s all too often that injured workers get the short end of the stick. They may get less time with their doctors than other patients, which means they’re less informed about their different treatment options. More importantly, there is always pressure from the insurance company to prescribe the least expensive medication possible, and opioids are often the cheapest pain medications.

Pursuing alternatives to opioids takes time and effort

While opioids are necessary to manage pain in some circumstances, it’s obvious that alternatives need to be explored to help injured workers get the best possible quality of life (and be able to return to work). For instance, physical or occupational therapy may work to mitigate pain before opioids are prescribed. Some injured workers even find relief in acupuncture.

The experience of pain is unique to the individual injured worker. Everyone has a different level of tolerance for pain. Rather than prescribing an addictive medication as one-size-fits-all treatment, doctors need to put in the time to find the safest way to effectively manage pain for each injured worker—and workers’ comp insurance companies need to foot the bill for safe and effective treatment.

The risk of opioid addiction speaks to the larger need for injured workers to stay involved in their medical care and get effective advocacy for their legal rights. If you’ve been injured on the job in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, get an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side to fight for the care and compensation you need. Contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl for a free consultation.