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Boston Workers’ Compensation – Loss of Function Injuries

In most injuries that happen to employees on the job in Boston, the worker will miss some time at work, receive medical treatment and then return to work.  However, there are some cases of on-the-job injuries where the claimant suffers a permanent loss of function to a particular body part, organ, or sense.

stethascopeIn some cases, the loss of function will fall under a category known as “Specific Injuries,” as defined in Chapter 152, Section 36 of the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) , which is the workers’ compensation act for the Commonwealth. 

As our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, pursuant to Section 36, the compensation paid under this section will be entirely separate from the compensation paid for lost wages, medical expenses, and rehabilitation costs. This means that a claimant’s specific injury compensation will be paid in addition to any money you receive in a traditional workers’ compensation claim.  This money for specific injuries is typically paid in a lump sum one-time payment.

Types of Specific Injuries

First, it should be noted that specific injury can include the amputation of an arm, leg, hand, foot, toe or finger. It can also involve the loss of function of any one of those limbs or extremities. This means that if you have a spinal injury that makes you unable to use your legs, this would be the same as an amputation for the purposes of specific injury compensation.

In addition to specific injury damages for loss of function or amputation as listed above, there are also benefits available for loss of function or loss of the following body parts, internal organs, and senses:

  • Loss of Vision – in one or both eyes
  • Partial Loss of Vision – in one or both eyes
  • Loss of Hearing – in one or both ears
  • Loss of Spleen Function
  • Loss of Equilibrium – as defined by loss of one’s total ability to stand
  • Loss of One Lung
  • Loss of Kidney Function – One kidney only
  • Loss of Language Comprehension Ability – this is a cognitive dysfunction
  • Los of Sexual Function – This must be a total loss
  • Loss of Sense of Taste – This must be a total loss
  • Loss of Sense of Smell – This must be a total loss
  • Loss of Spleen or Spleen Function
  • Loss of Urinary Function
  • Loss of Bowel Function
  • Loss of Teeth – each tooth lost will be calculated to add benefits
  • Loss of Brain Function – based upon a percentage of loss of total function
  • Certain Types of Disfigurement and Scarring

Calculation of Loss of Function in Boston Workers’ Compensation Cases

As noted in the statute, is not meant to be an overall exhaustive list.  This means that if there is another type of loss suffered, there can be an amount of money calculated based upon taking the state average weekly wage (SAWW) for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and multiplying it by an appropriate figure.

This is actually how all of the benefits for specific injuries are calculated. For example, if you suffer loss of vision in one eye, and that loss of vision is a total loss of vison, the benefits will be calculated by taking the state average weekly wage and multiplying it by 39.  This means that if the state average weekly wage was $1,256.47 (please note this is the figure from 2015 and is not necessarily accurate today), you would multiple $1,256.47 by 39, and that would entitle claimant to a benefit for the loss of vision in one eye of $49,002.33. While this may seem like a lot money of money, and it is, it compensates a claimant for loss of binocular vision for the rest of his or her life.

If the loss of vision was to both eyes, claimant would be entitled to the SAWW time 96.  In our example above, claimant would receive $120,621.12, but claimant would be blind for the rest of his or her life.  It should be noted that, for the purposes of this statute, a reduction of 20/70 with correction counts as a total loss of vison.  Again, claimants should remember that money is paid in addition to the traditional workers’ compensation benefits.

In the case of an amputation or loss of function to an arm, the difference in the amount of compensation will be whether or not the injured hand was your dominant or non-dominant hand. Under Section 36 of Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the dominant arm is called the major arm and the non-dominant arm the minor arm. If your injury involves an amputation or loss of function to your dominant arm, the specific injury benefits will be calculated as the state average weekly wage multiplied by 43.  If it was an injury to the minor arm, there would be benefits as calculated by the state average weekly wage multiplied by 39.  If there was an injury where claimant lost function in both legs, and this can include an amputation to both legs or some type of spinal cord injury, there would be benefits as calculated by taking the state average weekly wage and multiplying that figure by 96.

It should be noted that, in the case of a loss of function in a leg, the workers’ compensation act does not make any distinction between your minor leg and your major.  While a claimant does have a major and minor leg, as one is traditionally more dominant and would be the leg you would naturally kick a ball with, there is no additional money for a loss to the major leg. However, if claimant were to suffer an injury that resulted in a loss of function to both legs, there would be a higher payment in specific injury benefits.

If there is an injury to a hand or foot, there is a percentage of benefits that would paid had the entire arm or leg been injured, and it would again matter in the case of a hand, if that was the dominant hand or non-dominant hand.  The same is also true of fingers.  Toes are calculated as a percentage of the hand that is injured, as are fingers, but fingers can be on the major or minor hand, and that will make a difference.

If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Chapter 152, Section 36, Massachusetts General Laws

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HVAC Worker in Worcester Dies in Fall Accident, Feb. 13, 2017, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog