In Massachusetts and throughout the United States, the construction industry is a major employer. Unfortunately, the industry is also a major source of workers’ compensation claims, as construction sites contain many hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that, nationally, about 20 percent of worker deaths occur amongst workers employed in the construction industry, and the leading cause of these construction worker deaths is what is known as “construction’s fatal four”: falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught in or between objects. If you have been injured in the Boston metro area while working in the construction industry, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you understand how to file a workers’ compensation claim or pursue a settlement to compensate you for your injuries.
Falls and Spinal Cord Injuries
Of construction’s “fatal four”, falls accounted for more than 39 percent of the total number of worker deaths in the U.S. in 2017, and are also among the most common causes of serious workplace injuries. Falls are also a frequent cause of concern for safety regulators, with OSHA reporting that the most common violation for which they cite construction employers is failing to provide adequate fall protection.
The second-most common cause of spinal cord injuries in the U.S. is falling, according to the Mayo Clinic. Falls account for about 31 percent of all spinal cord injuries and are the second most common cause of these injuries behind only motor vehicle accidents.
Living With a Work-Related Back Injury
Back injuries can be among the most serious and long-lasting injuries a person can suffer. In addition to soft tissue or disc injuries, the back contains the highly important spinal cord which, along with the brain, makes up the body’s central nervous system. Traumatic spinal cord injuries occur when a sudden blow to the spine fractures, crushes, or compresses one or more of the vertebrae—the small bones of the spine. Spinal cord injuries often result in loss of function and sensation below the site of the injury. Spinal cord injuries are categorized as either complete, meaning there is no sensation or function below the injury site, or incomplete, which means the injured person retains some sensation or function below the location of the injury.
Spinal cord injuries can result in paraplegia, which is paralysis of the legs, feet, and pelvis. If the injury is located high up on the spine, the result may be tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia), which is paralysis of the legs, feet, pelvis, torso, shoulders, arms, and hands.
Construction is a labor-intensive industry, meaning that those with spinal cord injuries may not only face a lifetime of medical procedures and the need for assistance with everyday tasks but also will need vocational rehabilitation to learn another trade if they can go back to work at all.
Seeking a Settlement for Your Back Injury
Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation program requires that most employers in the state provide their employees with workers’ compensation insurance that covers medical expenses, a portion of the average weekly wage, and—in some cases—vocational rehabilitation to workers who are injured on the job.
While these benefits should be available and paid out to the employee within a month or so after the injury occurs, the state’s Department of Industrial Accidents reports that this only happens in about half of all workers’ compensation cases. In the other half of cases, the injured worker’s employer or workers’ compensation insurance provider disputes the claim.
During the dispute process, the injured worker—with the help of their attorney—can seek a settlement. There are two types of workers’ compensation settlements available:
- Payment of benefits over time: In this type of settlement, the insurance provider and the employee reach an agreement that involves the employer admitting liability for the workplace accident and the terms by which the employee will receive weekly benefits based on the facts of the employee’s case, including how the injury occurred and the severity of the injury.
- Lump-sum payments: In many cases—with or without admitting liability—the insurance provider agrees to pay the employee’s benefits in one lump sum, rather than in payments over time. Deciding to accept a lump-sum offer is an important decision that should be made with the guidance of an attorney, as it affects an individual’s ability to return to their job and may impact how much the injured person receives for future injury-related needs, including additional medical procedures to alleviate conditions caused by the injury, as well as personal assistance with routine tasks. That said, injured workers routinely enter this type of settlement agreement with insurers.
The Importance of Having an Attorney Help You
Workers’ compensation laws in Massachusetts can be quite complex and fraught with difficulties such as filing deadlines and multi-layered dispute processes. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney is your best chance at having your rights protected and your interests represented during the claims process. Some of the services that an attorney may provide for you include:
- A valuation of your case, depending on the severity of your injury, your disability status, and future injury-related expenses you face.
- An investigation of how your accident occurred and the liability issues involved.
- The ability to negotiate a fair settlement for your injuries, and a higher settlement than you would likely receive without an attorney.
- Guidance about the pros and cons of accepting a settlement offer.
- Assistance with other issues, including delayed benefit payments, assistance in obtaining benefits from employers who do not have the required workers’ compensation insurance, determining if a personal injury claim can be filed against a third-party who caused your construction accident, defense of your claim against insurers who file appeals, and, if you are denied benefits, potentially filing an appeal of your case before the Department of Industrial Accidents.
Following a construction accident, don’t leave your ability to pay your medical expenses or replace wages lost due to your injury to chance. Contact a workers’ comp lawyer today for a case evaluation.