Massachusetts Court Discusses Assault Pay for Workers Injured in Prisons

Generally, Massachusetts law limits people injured at work to the recovery of workers’ compensation benefits. In some professions, though, a person injured in the line of duty may be able to recover additional compensation. This was illustrated in a recent Massachusetts case in which the court found that a police officer qualified for assault pay in addition to workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to the General Laws. If you were hurt while working, you should speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss what benefits you may be able to recover.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff worked for a county sheriff’s department. In January 2018, an incident occurred in a correctional facility where an inmate took a guard hostage. The plaintiff was called to assist a co-worker in carrying a metal footlocker to address the hostage situation. When he was helping move the footlocker, the plaintiff hurt his shoulder.

Allegedly, the plaintiff could not work due to his injuries. He sought and received workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). He then sought assault pay pursuant to numerous provisions of the General Laws.

Assault Pay Under Massachusetts’ General Laws

Under Massachusetts law, police officers can recover compensation in addition to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured while working because of inmate violence. The intent of the compensation is to cover the gap between workers’ compensation benefits and the officer’s salary.

The court noted that the relevant portions of the statutes provided that an employee in a house of correction or jail that sustained a bodily injury during the performance of their duties because of the violence of a prisoner can recover additional benefits. In the subject case, the issue was whether the plaintiff was entitled to such benefits.

The court ultimately found that he was. Specifically, the court explained that the plaintiff hurt his shoulder when he was carrying a foot locker down the stairs, and the reason he was carrying the locker was because an inmate assaulted a guard; as such, his injury resulted from an act of violence. The court rejected the employer’s assertion that the connection between the violent act and the plaintiff’s harm was too remote, noting that the Act and related laws should be interpreted broadly in light of their purpose and to promote the distribution of benefits. As such, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

Talk to a Dedicated Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

People hurt on the job have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits, and in some instances, they may be owed additional compensation. If you sustained harm in the workplace, you should contact an attorney to discuss your rights. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a dedicated Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer dedicated who can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and aid you in pursuing any benefits recoverable.  You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or by using the form online to set up a conference.