Proposed Amendment to Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Laws Could Help Burn Victims

Prior posts on this blog have discussed the fact that many workers who become injured in Massachusetts, in some cases even those who lose a limb, may not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or may not receive the level of compensation that they deserve.

One category of injured workers that may not necessarily receive the compensation they deserve is those who are scarred from chemical burns, gas explosions, falling pallets, or machine injuries. That is because under current Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, if workers’ injuries and resulting scars occur on their arms, legs, or torsos, they do not receive workers’ compensation benefits for their permanent disfigurement.

The reason for this is due to attempts at reforming the system, with the justification being that it was believed that compensation for scars not on these areas was not necessary, since the compensation for scarring was meant, in theory, to compensate for the fact that the worker would not be able to seek certain kinds of employment with visible scarring.

However, because of this restriction, individuals who have extensive injuries do not receive any workers’ compensation at all. One individual was badly burned when he fell into a vat of chemicals at the metal finishing factory where he had worked for over a decade. The man suffered second and third degree burns from his thighs to his feet. Doctors had to remove skin from his back, chest, and arms in order to create skin grafts large enough to cover the affected areas on his legs. As a result, in addition to the extensive scarring, which covers nearly 40% of his body, he suffers from cripplingly intense pain.

However, since the scarring is on his legs, back, chest, and arms, rather than on his “face, neck, or hands,” while he received temporary 60% wage replacement benefits and medical treatment, he did not receive workers’ compensation benefits related to the scarring itself.

A bill introduced to the Legislature this year seeks to expand workers’ compensation benefits for this type of permanent disfigurement. The language of the bill would directly address the lack of compensation for scarring by eliminating the “face, neck, or hands” requirement, and furthermore it would amend the compensation amount by changing $15,000 to 30 times the average weekly wage in the Commonwealth.

The bill, S. 968 “An Act relative to fairness in worker’s compensation disfigurement benefits,” has been referred to the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. As initially introduced, it was numbered Bill H.1707. It will likely face a long deliberation process prior to becoming law, if it gets that far.

If you become injured or ill as a result of something that happens at work, you want to ensure your best chance at securing compensation for your injuries. The experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers at Pulgini & Norton offer comprehensive guidance and representation in these matters. We can assist you throughout the entire workers’ compensation claim process. Call our office today at (781) 843-2200, or you can contact us online in order to schedule an initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules in Favor of Taxicab Owners, Fails to Find Drivers Employees for Workers’ Compensation Purposes, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published April 28, 2015

Massachusetts Attorney General Prosecuting Workers’ Compensation Fraud Cases, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published April 21, 2015

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