Massachusetts Court Dicusses Firemen’s Eligibility for Benefits Following Work Injuries

Generally, the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides that employees that suffer work-related harm can recover workers’ compensation benefits. There are some workers, however, that fall outside of the scope of the Act, like police officers and firefighters. Fortunately, numerous Massachusetts laws allow public servants to recover benefits that are akin to workers’ compensation benefits. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed eligibility for such benefits in a case in which an injured firefighter sought compensation after he was injured on the job. If you sustained damages while working, you may be owed benefits, and you should consider meeting with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney regarding your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked as a firefighter for a Massachusetts town. He suffered injuries in 2009. The town’s insurer made payments to the plaintiff from 2009 through 2014. After the payments ended, the plaintiff made a claim for benefits under M.G.L.A. 32 § 85H ½. The town denied the claim arguing that the plaintiff was not eligible for such benefits, as the town did not accept the provisions of the statute until after the plaintiff’s injury occurred. The matter was brought before a court, which ruled that the town was owed the plaintiff benefits, as his injury did not have to post-date the town’s acceptance of the statute. The town appealed.

Firemen’s Eligibility for Benefits Following Work Injuries

The question on appeal was what date applied for determining eligibility for benefits under M.G.L.A. 32 § 85H ½. The appellate court ultimately agreed with the town and reversed the trial court ruling. The appellate court noted that its primary duty in interpreting a law is to effectuate the intent of the legislature in enacting it. If the statutory language is unambiguous and plain, its intent is evident. When the language of a law is unclear or vague, however, the court will assess the cause of its enactment to determine its intent.

In the subject case, the court noted that M.G.L.A. 32 § 85H ½ stated that it applied to any town that accepted its provisions. Thus, a plain language reading of the law indicated it only became effective when a town voted to accepts its provisions. In other words, a town has no obligation to provide benefits under the law prior to when it was enacted. Here, as the town did not accept M.G.L.A. 32 § 85H ½ until after the plaintiff was injured, the court found that its provisions did not apply. Thus, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Although firefighters who are hurt at work typically cannot recover workers’ compensation benefits, they may be owed similar benefits under Massachusetts law. If you were injured while working, it is advisable to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted workers’ compensation lawyer who can aid you in pursuing any benefits you may be owed under the law. You can reach him by calling 508-822-6600 or using the online form to set up a meeting.