Massachusetts Court Discusses Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Divorce

Pursuant to Massachusetts law, people hurt while working can often recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employer. Such benefits are meant, in part, to compensate the employee for the loss of income they suffered due to their injuries; in other words, they represent lost wages. As such, if a person that received workers’ compensation benefits subsequently divorces, such benefits may be subject to division as marital property, as explained in a recent Massachusetts case. If you were hurt while on the job, you may be owed benefits, and it is smart to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer regarding your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband received a $240,000 workers’ compensation settlement for an injury during the marriage. The husband and his wife subsequently divorced. Some funds were distributed during the divorce proceedings, leaving $123,230 in escrow. The divorce judgment, dated March 30, 2018, incorporated the separation agreement and distributed $50,000 of the remaining settlement to the wife. The judge considered factors such as the husband’s health and employment status before the injury, the wife’s modest income, and her intention to buy out the husband’s share in the marital home. The husband appealed, arguing that his workers’ compensation settlement was not a divisible marital asset.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits in the Context of Divorce Actions

On appeal, the husband argued that workers’ compensation settlements shouldn’t be divisible marital assets under G. L. c. 208, § 34. The court disagreed, stating that the accident occurred during the marriage, and the settlement was received before the finalization of the divorce nisi. As a workers’ compensation claim is an “unliquidated claim for money damages,” it qualified as marital property and was subject to division in the divorce proceedings.

Moreover, the husband claimed that the allocation of the settlement was inequitable. Still, the court found no abuse of discretion on the part of the judge, as they had broad discretion in weighing and balancing the factors specified in G. L. c. 208, § 34 when dividing marital property. The judge’s findings and reasoning for the $50,000 award to the wife were thoughtful and well-reasoned, taking into account both parties’ contributions to the marriage, their ages, health, and other relevant considerations.

The husband also challenged the requirement that he maintain a life insurance policy, citing pending Social Security disability insurance benefits (SSDI) as sufficient security. However, the court upheld the judge’s decision, stating that they had the authority to order a life insurance policy for child support, considering the uncertainty about SSDI benefits.

Speak to a Capable Massachusetts Attorney

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act dictates that employees hurt while performing job duties can recover benefits for the loss of income they suffered due to their harm. If you were injured on the job, it is prudent to speak to an attorney about what benefits you may be owed. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a capable Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who possesses the skills and experience needed to help you seek the maximum benefits recoverable under the law. You can reach Mr. Meehan to set up a conference by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.