Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Benefits May Be Offset by Payment of Out-of-State Benefits for Same Injury

In a newly released decision, the Massachusetts Reviewing Board of Industrial Accidents addressed the issue of crediting workers’ compensation benefits paid by another state to a Massachusetts insurer. In Deborah Dean v. Access Nurses, Inc., the employee appealed from an order awarding her a closed period of § 34 total disability benefits, but it allowed her employer’s insurer to take credit for unemployment compensation disability benefits paid by the state of California.

The employee was a California resident working as a traveling nurse. While on assignment in Massachusetts, she fell and fractured her wrist while leaving her apartment for work. The employee’s injury was initially found to be noncompensable under the “going and coming rule,” which bars compensation for an injury occurring when an employee is simply going to or coming home from work. However, that ruling was reversed on appeal because the rule had no application to the employee’s situation as a traveling employee. On recommittal, the judge found the employee totally incapacitated as a result of the industrial injury and awarded benefits for the period up until the employee returned to full-time work. The judge also ordered that the insurer credit itself with any California benefits paid to the employee for the same injury. On appeal, the employee argued that the judge erred in allowing the credit for California benefits.

In Massachusetts, there is a bar against double recovery for the same injury. As a result, an employee who has received workers’ compensation benefits in another state may apply for and receive benefits in Massachusetts for the same injury, but the amount paid on the prior award in the other state will be credited on the second award. In addition, an employee cannot receive both workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits for the same time period. The employee in Deborah Dean v. Access Nurses, Inc., however, contended that the unemployment compensation disability benefits were neither workers’ compensation nor unemployment benefits, but a separate benefit designed to fill the gap between them, and thus they were not subject to reimbursement as compensation for the same injury.

The Reviewing Board found that the California unemployment compensation disability benefits were paid pursuant to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Code, which is part of a comprehensive program of social insurance. Although Massachusetts does not have the equivalent of such benefits, it does have a public system of wage replacement, which includes workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, Reviewing Board held that, given the fundamental policy against double recovery, the administrative judge’s decision to deduct the amount of benefits paid by California from the amount owed by the insurer to the employee for the same injury was correct.

Injuries that arise from work-related conditions or as the result of an on-the-job accident may be covered under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. If you have questions regarding your eligibility for such benefits, seeking professional advice may be advantageous. At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our injury lawyers routinely assist employees with claims involving workers’ compensation benefits and can help you pursue medical expenses and lost wages. To discuss your claim with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online.

More Blog Posts:

Reviewing Board Addresses Evidence of Pre-Existing Condition in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Appeal, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published January 27, 2016

Massachusetts Employee Prevails on Claim for Workers’ Compensation Partial Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published March 24, 2016

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