Massachusetts Court Discusses Penalties in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), employers must provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees who sustain work-related injuries. While generally, such benefits are paid by insurers, employers have the option of being self-insured. If they choose to do so, they are nonetheless bound by the terms of the Act. This means, among other things, that they can be penalized for failing to provide an employee who sustained a work-related injury with the benefits they are owed, as demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts ruling. If you sustained injuries at work, you may be owed benefits, and you should speak with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the employee sustained a knee injury while working as a track maintenance supervisor for the employer. Despite reporting the injury and seeking medical attention, the employee’s request for coverage for surgery was initially denied by the employer, who acted as a self-insurer based on a medical evaluation. The employee eventually underwent surgery and filed for workers’ compensation benefits, which were also initially denied.

It is reported, however, that following a conciliation and conference process, an administrative judge issued an order for the employer to pay temporary total incapacity compensation and medical benefits to the employee. The employer disputed the order, claiming it had already compensated the employee through other means, and appealed the decision. The Department of Industrial Accidents’ reviewing board affirmed the administrative judge’s ruling and imposed a penalty on the employer for late payment of benefits awarded to the employee. The employer appealed.

Grounds for Imposing Penalties on Employers in Workers’ Compensation Cases

On appeal, the court affirmed the decision of the reviewing board. The court clarified that regardless of the employer’s status as a self-insurer, it was still subject to all provisions of Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws regarding the payment of benefits.

The court emphasized that the employer’s actions, which involved withholding a portion of the ordered compensation and crediting it against other benefits the employee had already received, did not comply with the administrative judge’s clear order to pay the specified compensation directly to the employee.

Therefore, the court determined that the employer’s failure to make all payments due to the employee as ordered triggered the statutory penalty under Massachusetts law. As a result, the court affirmed the decision of the reviewing board, upholding the penalty imposed on the employer for its late payment of workers’ compensation benefits to the employee.

Meet with a Seasoned Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Massachusetts law demands the employers pay workers’ compensation benefits to employees hurt while working, and if they refuse to do so, they may face penalties. If you were hurt at work, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. Attorney James K. Meehan is a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer with ample experience helping injured workers protect their rights, and if you hire him, he will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can contact Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or through our convenient online contact form to arrange a confidential meeting.