Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Laws Staff Profile Picture
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While no one expects to get injured at work, it remains a possibility in venues where even the strictest standards of safety and care are observed. Human error and carelessness result in the less-than-ideal implementation of safety protocols, or sometimes the protocols may be flawed. Massachusetts workers’ comp laws are in place to give laborers support in case an accident happens at work.

State statistics revealed that there were 64,700 recorded nonfatal occupational injuries in 2019. The 2019 Massachusetts Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Report indicated on page 3 that this figure was down from 65,700 the previous year but was higher than the 2014 low of 62,100. This equated to 2.6 incidents per every 100 full-time equivalent workers. 

Overall, the state can be considered safer than the rest of the U.S. in this regard, but the raw number of 64,700 is still a lot. Neither does it diminish the fact that insurance optimizes for the unlikely yet devastating, and workplace accidents are both.

Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Laws Insurance Requirements

Practically every employee in Massachusetts has to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance and benefits. The law does not distinguish between businesses that have a single employee or hundreds. There is no minimum number of workers needed before an establishment has to be insured. 

As with any law, there are exceptions. Independent contractors are not covered by workers’ compensation, and these refer to individuals who are not controlled or directed by the employer, have their own independent business or trade, and perform tasks beyond the employer’s usual course of business. People who fall outside the scope of “employee” are also excluded, like seamen involved in foreign commerce, cab drivers who lease services by fee and not on a fare basis, and those who sell real estate or goods on a commission basis. 

Meanwhile, those involved in interstate or foreign commerce are covered by federal compensation laws and are exempted from state coverage. Likewise, excluded from coverage are partners or members of limited liability companies or partnerships, plus sole proprietors.

The extent of Massachusetts workers’ comp benefits is immense, reaching out to out-of-state employers who have to provide coverage for persons employed within the Commonwealth. Options are purchasable from public marketplaces like the Workers' Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts, which serves as the state’s risk residual market. The market covers employers who cannot get coverage elsewhere. Private options are also available from established providers. 

Penalties are in place for non-compliance. The Department of Industrial Accidents’ Office of Investigations will get involved, send out a stop work order, and impose fines at a rate of $100 daily that accrue even on holidays and weekends. The stop-work order could evolve into criminal charges, and the employers may be disallowed from engaging in public contracts for up to three years.

Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Laws Benefits

Massachusetts workers’ comp benefits differ based on whether or not there is incapacity that is temporary and partial, temporary and total, or permanent and total. There are also medical benefits for those who have work-related injuries and various forms of assistance for those who have been scarred or left behind dependents.

Types of Benefits

Qualified Parties



Temporary Partial Incapacity

- Those who can work but earn less because of illness or injury
- Includes scenarios where one is forced into a lower-paying job or to take fewer hours

Maximum weekly benefit of 75% of the weekly temporary total benefit

For up to 260 weeks

Temporary Total Incapacity

- Those who suffer from an injury or illness that prevents one from working for 6 or more full or partial calendar days
- The days don’t have to be in a row

- 60% of one’s gross average weekly wage, which is computed using the 52 weeks prior to the injury date
- Capped at the state’s average weekly wage when the injury occurred

- For up to 156 consecutive or nonconsecutive weeks, starting on the 6th day of disability
- There is no payment for the first 5 days unless the disability lasts for 21 calendar days or more

Permanent and Total Incapacity

Those who are permanently and completely unable to work because of a work-related illness or injury

- 66% of the gross average weekly wage, no lower than 20% of the state average weekly wage during the time of injury
- Capped at the state average weekly wage when the injury happened and subject to cost-of-living adjustments

For as long as the disability lasts

Medical Benefits

Anyone who has had a work-related injury

A wide range of reasonable medical care and reimbursements for mileage and prescription medicines

For as long as treatment is necessary, though insurers have the right to determine what “necessary” means

Scarring, Disfigurement, Permanent Loss of Function

- Those scarred or disfigured on their neck, face, or hands because of a work-related mishap
- Those who lose bodily functions because of a work-related mishap

- One-time medical payment on top of medical bills and lost wages
- Amount paid varies depending on the severity and location of the disfigurement or loss

One-time payment

Survivors’ and Dependents’ Benefits and Burial Costs

Spouse and qualified children of an employee who dies because of a workplace mishap or illness

Weekly benefits and burial costs that are proportions of the state average weekly wage, with cost-of-living adjustments

For spouses, as long as they remain unmarried. For children, until they lose their qualifications (reach the age of 18, stop studying, or are no longer mentally incapacitated)

How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Massachusetts

Filing a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim involves both the employer and the employee. The process includes notifications to the parties in the insurance contract, and the deadlines have to be observed strictly to prevent any denials of claims.

When is the Deadline for Workers’ Compensation Claims in Massachusetts?

In the state of Massachusetts, notice has to be given to the insurer and the insured party of the occurrence of a workplace accident and injury. The law does not set a definite deadline for this initial notice and insists on giving notice as soon as practicable.

After notice is given, claims may be made within a four-year period from the date when the worker figured out the causal link between the disability suffered and the workplace incident. If the laborer dies, the four years are counted from the date of death. The deadline will be tolled the moment a claim is filed, or any compensation is paid.

A Step-By-Step Guide on Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Massachusetts

1. Report Your Injury or Illness to Your Employer.

It is always prudent to inform the employer as soon as possible of one’s workplace injuries, regardless of their severity. Take copious notes of the details and circumstances surrounding the incident, like the time it occurred and how it took place. It is probable that what seems like a simple injury one day will escalate into a more serious condition later on. It also lets the employer know that Form 101 has to be submitted to the DIA, among other things to be explored later.

2. Seek Medical Attention.

It makes no sense to wait for the insurer to respond before getting treated, and if the situation gets worse, the failure to seek immediate treatment could work against the claimant. Going to the doctor immediately is good for receiving the needed care at once and preventing problems that can be used against the employee when an intervening event compounds their injuries.

3. The Employer Notifies the Insurer and the Department of Industrial Accidents.

The ball is in the employer’s court at this point. Employers have to submit a first report of injury, illness, or death, or Form 101 to the DIA that indicates the following details:

  • Name of the injured employee plus personal information;

  • Date when the injury happened;

  • The name of the business’ workers’ compensation company;

  • The place where the accident transpired;

  • Body parts associated with the injuries and the types of injuries.

The filing process is completed online using the DIA’s content management system. There is no other method for submitting the form in person.

4. Notify the DIA If the Employer Refuses To Do So

If the employer does not file Form 101 with the DIA, the employee may file a claim using Form 110 to jumpstart the process. The employee has to keep track of various details such as:

  • The date of injury or death (if dependents are filing);

  • The first facility where one went for treatment;

  • The first and fifth calendar days of work that one has missed for the purposes of determining if the disability is temporary or not;

  • The body parts and the injuries sustained;

  • The name of the applicable insurance carrier;

  • The length of time the employee will be out of work;

  • The benefits one needs;

  • The current doctor one is seeing.

Supporting documents have to be submitted, which range from medical reports and unpaid healthcare treatment bills to eyewitness statements and written accounts of the incident. There are options to submit the papers in triplicate by mail or in person at:

Department of Industrial Accidents
Dept. 110
Lafayette City Center
2 Avenue de Lafayette
Boston, MA 02111-1750

5. Wait for the Denial or Grant.

At this point, the worker waits for what comes next. It might be a good idea to start talking to lawyers if one anticipates that a denial of the claim is forthcoming or if one wishes to advocate for safer working conditions and fears retribution. Employee discrimination is a very real possibility for those who want to fight for a safer work environment.

What Should One Do If a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Massachusetts Has Been Denied?

As earlier mentioned, it might be a good idea to lawyer up at this point. The procedure for how to reverse a denial is essentially the same as that laid out in step 4 of the previous section, which is to file a Form 110 and to submit the required supporting documents in person or by mail. 

The DIA may reject the form and notify the claimant of what information needs to be clarified or added so that the claim can prosper. If the information is sufficient and proper, the employee, employer, and insurer will be called to conciliation proceedings. The employer’s notice of conciliation is a courtesy, and there is generally no need for actual attendance on the business’ part. The exception is if the insurer asks for it or if the employer has no insurance coverage and has to pay out of pocket. 

Additionally, penalties are in place for those who fail to appear and present requested information, namely, a bar from presenting said information at a later date. Absentee attorneys also face a reduction in fees.

The employer, employee, and insurer will be given a date, time, and place to meet and iron out the denial of the claim. These informal negotiations take the place of formal judicial processes.

Legal Resources for Injured Workers in Massachusetts

Massachusetts workers’ compensation does not have to be a complex topic. Seeking support for those who need representation in their workers’ compensation concerns does not have to be a trial in and of itself. Here are a handful of resources that the residents of the state may use to obtain their benefits under the law. These include pro bono legal resources for those who need affordable legal representation and websites that offer answers to legal queries over email channels.

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau is run by students of the Harvard Law School. The organization is wholly student-run and is maintained by those who are in their second and third years of legal studies. The focus is on low-income residents of the Greater Boston Area who otherwise cannot afford representation in civil matters like social security disability benefits and fair wages. A managing attorney and faculty director oversee the facility to ensure that the students are right on track with their strategies and tactics on the legal battlefield.

The office is reachable by mail at:
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau
23 Everett St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
And by phone at (617) 495-4408. The fax line is (617) 496-2687.

Community Legal Aid, Inc.

Community Legal Aid, Inc. tackles cases involving employment and government benefits for workers who need Social Security or unemployment support. It provides free legal aid to five counties across Western and Central Massachusetts. It handles cases across a wide array of legal fields, such as housing, veterans’ concerns, elder law, and domestic abuse. The institution was founded in 1951 as the Legal Aid Society of Worcester and consolidated with numerous other pro bono societies to become the office it is today. The firm is reachable at 855 252-5342 and has 10 offices across its operating area.

Boston Bar Association

The Boston Bar Association traces its origins to the 1700s and its founding to no less than John Adams and his lawyer associates. It maintains a public service and pro-bono wing using grants and volunteers from all over the area. It has ties with MassProBono (a network that links pro-bono lawyers and volunteers together) and Massachusetts Free Legal Answers. The association is reachable at 16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108, and via phone line at (617) 742-0615.

Massachusetts Free Legal Answers

Massachusetts Free Legal Answers is a website that offers question-and-answer services for a wide swath of law-related matters. Employment, health, and disability matters are covered. The team behind the program also handles civil issues like family relations, consumer rights, and civil rights. It links citizens with volunteers who answer legal queries through email. The site is associated with the American Bar Association. Its reach extends across 40 states.

Massachusetts Bar Association

The Massachusetts Bar Association is the professional organization that all practicing attorneys in the state must be members of. It has a lawyer referral service that links needy residents of the state with lawyers who are willing to render services for a fee, though the initial consultation will not reach beyond $25, and the parties are open to discussing payment schemes after. While the lawyers here may charge the client, it is still useful for finding people for the initial consultation, which could lead to being referred to more affordable legal counsel.

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