What Is Workers' Compensation?
Updated: May 22
Workers’ Compensation is a statutory benefit for employees who get injured on the job. Workers seeking these benefits do not need to prove that the injury was the fault of the employer. In this sense, Workers’ Compensation is a “no-fault” benefit. In exchange for these rights and others under the Workers’ Compensation statute, see, e.g., G.L. c. 152, §§ 34, 35, 34A, workers waive (give up) their right to sue their employer for personal injuries sustained on the job. See G.L. c. 152, § 24.
Purpose of Workers' Compensation. “The primary goal of [workers’ compensation] is wage replacement.” Sellers’s Case, 452 Mass. 804, 808 (2008). One of the most immediate concerns of someone injured on the job is the resulting loss of income. Workers’ Compensation alleviates some of this financial strain by providing a certain percentage of your gross average weekly wage. The Workers’ Compensation insurance company can begin paying you for your lost wages within days of your injury.
A lawsuit, by contrast, can take years if it must be litigated through trial. During that time, you would not be entitled to payments for lost wages. Also, whereas Workers’ Compensation does not require you to prove the negligence of your employer, a lawsuit puts the burden on you to prove that your employer was negligent, and that the negligence was the cause of your injuries. Another benefit included in the Workers’ Compensation statute is payment for the medical bills that you incur as a result of your workplace injury. This benefit is not immediately available to the injured party in a typical lawsuit.
Categories of Injuries. Injured employees usually fall within one of the three main sections of the Workers' Compensation statute - Sections 34, 35, or 34A. Section 34 is for temporary total disability - those employees who cannot work at all for a period of time. Employees falling into this category can receive 60% of their average weekly salary for up to three years (subject to the maximum weekly rate which is currently approximately $1,700).
Section 35 is for temporary partial disability. Under this section, employees are entitled to 60% of the difference between their average weekly wage before the injury and the weekly wage the employee is earning after the injury (also subject to a maximum). Sometimes employees collect Section 34 benefits before Section 35 benefits. In that case, an employee can receive benefits under 34 and 35 combined for a maximum of 7 years .
Section 34A is for permanent and total disability. These benefits are for those employees whose injuries are so severe they cannot perform any substantial work. Work of a "trifling" nature is not counted when determining whether an employee is totally disabled. See Shirley's Case, 355 Mass. 308, 311 (1969).
There are several other benefits under the Workers' Compensation statute from death benefits (payable to a surviving spouse or beneficiaries) and payment of funeral expenses to compensation for loss of function (such as hearing or eyesight) or permanent disfigurement (including scarring but only if on the face, neck, or hands). If you have been injured at work, I would be happy to speak with you about a Workers' Compensation claim. It is important that you receive the maximum benefits available to you!