Massachusetts Court Discusses Time Limits in Workers’ Compensation Claims

When people die from injuries sustained at work, their surviving family members can often recover workers’ compensation benefits, including adjustments for the cost of living. Usually, such benefits are not actually paid by the deceased person’s employer but by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurer. In some cases in which multiple insurers are involved, one insurer may seek reimbursement from another. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed the time limitations for pursuing such claims in a matter in which a town argued that the statute of limitations barred claims for reimbursement. If you suffered the loss of a loved one in a workplace accident, it is in your best interest to meet with a dedicated Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss what benefits you may be owed.

History of the Case

It is alleged that in 1976 an employee of the town died in an industrial accident. The town’s workers’ compensation insurer subsequently began paying the employee’s widow weekly benefits. Starting in 1986, the insurer also paid the widow supplemental cost of living benefits. Initially, the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund reimbursed the employer. At some time prior to 1992, though, the town joined a licensed self-insurance group and became responsible for paying new workers’ compensation claims.

It is reported that in 1992 the new self-insurance group opted out of the trust fund, but the prior insurer continued to receive reimbursement for the cost of living benefits. The trust fund later advised the insurer it would no longer reimburse it for prior claims, after which the insurer submitted the claims to the town. The town argued such claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations established by a Department of Industrial Accidents regulation. The town was ultimately ordered to pay the claims, after which it appealed.

Time Limitations Pertaining to Workers’ Compensation Claims

On appeal, the court noted that the workers’ compensation board’s decision turned on the interpretation of the statute regarding reimbursements to insurers for the cost of living benefits and the regulation setting forth time limitations. The court ultimately agreed with the board’s interpretation and affirmed its decision.

The court explained that the plain language of the statute and regulation supported the conclusion that the town’s insurer was not subject to the two-year statute of limitations when seeking reimbursement for the cost of living adjustment benefits, as it was when it was previously reimbursed by the trust fund, prior to the town withdrawing from the fund. Specifically, the board found that the limitations period only applied to reimbursement referenced in the regulation, which was limited to reimbursement from the trust fund. Thus, the court affirmed the board’s ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

People who lose loved ones in workplace accidents not only suffer significant emotional harm but frequently also incur substantial financial losses. If you lost a loved one to a workplace injury, you may be owed benefits, and you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted workers’ compensation attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you to seek any benefits recoverable under the law. You can reach him through the form online or at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.