Massachusetts lawmakers are mulling whether to change the state's workers' compensation laws - a move that those who have suffered workplace injuries in Bangor staunchly oppose.
Our Bangor personal injury attorneys are closely following the developments surrounding legislative request 2781, which would cap the amount of time people can receive workers' compensation claims for partial but permanent injury to less than 12 years. As of right now, certain types of injury claims are limited to a cap of 10 years, though the most serious have no cap at all.
The portion of the proposal that is causing the greatest stir is that dealing with permanent, partial injury. This would not be a case in which you, say, broke your leg on the job and you are going to be receiving workers' compensation benefits until it heals, and then you return to work. Instead, these are for cases in which you have suffered an injury on the job that is going to impact you forever. So instead of breaking a limb, say you lost one. Or, maybe your back has been permanently injured.
Workers' compensation laws are fairly complicated, but they basically ensure that the 25 percent of people who have suffered the most serious permanent, partial injury are going to get benefits for life. The other 75 percent have a 10-year cap. Legislative request 2781 would change that.
Among those testifying at a recent hearing:
- A nurse who fell and seriously injured her back while treating a patient, leaving her unable to continue working in her field;
- An electrician who was jolted with more than 200,000 volts of electricity, rendering him disabled;
- The widow of a construction worker whose boss accidentally backed over him with a truck.
Each of these individuals is very much against the changes, though any alteration of the law thankfully would not impact those who are already getting workers' compensation benefits.
Those who proposed the bill say the state's decades-old workers' compensation system is need of an overhaul. They say consistency is required because the law the way it is now is strange in that a person with a certain injury might not qualify for lifetime benefits one year, but someone with the exact same injury would the next. It would all depend on what kinds of other injuries there were in the state that year.
Payouts for these permanent, partial injuries are generally higher here - about $185,000 annually - than the national average - which is about $90,000 a year. However, they don't represent a large portion of overall workers' compensation claims in the state. For example, as the Bangor Daily News reported, there were about 2,200 workers' compensation claims in the state in 2010, each of those averaging about 13 weeks. That was down a great deal from 1993, when there were more than 7,100 claims that generally spanned about 33 weeks.
The Bangor personal injury lawyers at Peter Thompson & Associates are dedicated to fighting for victims and their families. If you have been injured in a work accident, call for a free no-obligation appointment to discuss your claim at 1-800-490-5218.
Testimony heard on workers' comp proposal, By Matt Wickenheiser, Bangor Daily News