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Amputation Accidents in Boston Workers’ Comp Cases

In some of the worst types of on the job accidents, claimants are killed or suffer a severe personal injury.  A severe personal injury in a Boston workplace accident can include the amputation or loss of function in a hand, arm, leg, foot, finger, or toe.

shoulder injury lawyerIn addition to the standard workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages and medical bills, the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Section 152, Chapter 36 provides for a single lump sum award for specific injuries.  This can include various types of injuries such as loss of limbs or extremities.

As our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, MGL Section 152, Chapter 36 also provides for additional benefits for the following specific injuries:

  • Loss of function or amputation
  • Loss of vision in one or two eyes
  • Loss of hearing in one or two ears
  • Some types of disfigurement
  • Some loss of bodily function

If claimant has suffered a workplace injury that resulted in one of these above-listed specific injuries, claimant would qualify for specific injury benefits.  The amount of benefits would depend on the type and extent of specific injuries. For example, if a worker suffered a loss of an arm, or the loss of function in an arm, the amount of the benefits award would depend on whether we are dealing with a major arm or a minor arm.  The major arm is the term the Massachusetts workers’ compensation act uses to mean the dominant arm.  If claimant was right handed, claimant’s right arm would be the marjor arm.

For the loss of the major arm, we take the average weekly wage (AWW) of claimant prior to the traumatic injury and multiple that figure by 43.  For example, if claimant earned a thousand dollars per week prior to becoming injured and losing a major arm, we would take $1,000 and multiply it by 43 giving us a sum of $43,000.  This $43,000 would be paid in addition to whatever standard weekly workers’ compensation benefits to which claimant would be entitled.

Carrera v. Olmstead

In Carrera v. Olmstead, a case from the Washington state supreme court, claimant lost his right hand in a workplace accident. Claimant was 19-years-old and working on a farm. His job was to harvest, sort, and pack onions. When he first started working there, he and other newly hired employees were given a safety lecture that was ran by a third-party contractor.

A few months after he started working at the farm, he was given a new job where he was given a small hand broom and told o the sweep the floor and use a hand-held dustpan to shovel the debris onto a conveyor belt that was supposed to carry the debris to dump trucks parked under the end of the conveyor belt. The side guards had been removed and this was considered an alleged violation of state law.

In many jobs, worker are required to handle large moving machinery.  While any machine can be dangerous, some are more dangerous than others, and these machines are required to have side guards in place to prevent someone from getting caught in the mechanism.  Improper machine guarding accidents are unfortunately all too common in the greater Boston area and around the nation.

Claimant was not trained in how to do this new job and his sleeve got caught in the conveyor belt. His arm got arm got pulled into the machine and his right hand was cut off at the wrist. If this were to have occurred in Massachusetts, the specific injury section of the workers’ compensation act provides that claimant is entitled to his or her average weekly wage prior to the amputation multiplied by 34, assuming this was an injury to the major hand.  Had he been left handed, the average weekly wage would be multiplied by 29.  If he had lost both hands, the law would provide for the average weekly wage to be multiplied by 77.

In this this case, doctors were not able to reattach his hand they had to complete the amputation at the forearm level. He not only loss his major hand but suffered from ongoing pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is understandable given what happened to him.

He filed a claim for workers’ compensation and was given a rating of permanently totally disabled.  In Massachusetts, the term used is impaired rather than disabled, but the laws operate similarly across the county though there are some major exceptions. The issue in this case mainly dealt with workers’ compensation insurer trying to recover from the third-party contractor that was responsible for the safety training and also the worker safety under the contract entered into between the parties.

Typically in a workers’ compensation case, there is no way for a claimant to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is because the system was designed as no-fault single recovery system. There is no need for claimants to prove that their employers were in any way negligent in connection with a workplace injury and there is generally not the need to wait to recovery as with a personal injury lawsuit.  The employer must maintain a workers’ compensation insurance policy, but is excused from being at risk to a civil court lawsuit.  This means employer will be responsible for medical bills, lost wages, and in the case of deadly workplace accident, burial expenses, but the employer will not be responsible for pain and suffering damages that are common in a personal injury lawsuit.

The one except to the single recovery system is when there is a liability on the part of a third party.  The most common case involves a worker who is driving for work and is involved in a car accident. If that car accident was the fault of a third party, claimant could file a workers’ compensation with his or her employer and then file a claim with the third party’s auto insurance carrier.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Carrera v. Olmstead, September 7, 2017, Washington State Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Report: Three Workers Burned in Natural Gas Explosion, Feb. 18, 2017, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog