Permanent and Total Disability Benefits in Massachusetts
Permanent and total disability (PTD) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a disability rating used by EOLWD to calculate workers’ compensation benefits.
To qualify for permanent and total disability benefits, the worker must be totally and permanently unable to perform any kind of work as a result of a work-related injury or illness. Injuries that could entitle a worker to permanent total disability benefits include loss of vision, loss of limb, paralysis, traumatic brain injury and toxic exposure that causes neurologic impairment.
To learn more, let’s take a look at an example of a work injury that results in a permanent and total disability as the claim moves its way through the state’s workers’ compensation benefits process. An employee is working for a company in Boston that provides tree-trimming services for homes and utility lines. The employee is standing in the bucket of a cherry picker truck using a chainsaw to cut branches away from a utility line. Due to a mechanical defect, the bucket drops, and the worker is seriously injured during the fall.
The worker is taken to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, where doctors diagnose him with a broken back. At this stage in the process, there’s no question that he can’t return to work in the near future, so he applies for workers’ compensation benefits.
He will likely be entitled to temporary total disability benefits designed to cover lost wages during the time that he is unable to return to work. At some point in the future, after trying several times to restore mobility and sensation, surgeons determine that the worker will never recover from his on-the-job fall injury. While there are other surgeries that could be performed, the surgeons decide that all feasible medical procedures to reverse the paralysis have already been attempted and that the worker has reached a point of maximum medical improvement, or MMI.Maximum Medical Improvement in Permanent Total Disability Cases
Maximum medical improvement is one of the most controversial aspects of workers’ compensation claims. MMI is defined as the point at which a worker’s medical condition has stabilized or plateaued and further improvement is unlikely, even if the worker undergoes additional medical treatment or physical therapy.
MMI is determined by the worker’s treating physician. However, an employer can request that the worker submit to an independent medical examination, or IME. When this happens, a qualified medical practitioner will review the worker’s medical records and examine the worker. If the treating physician disagrees with the MMI determination of the IME, the claim will be decided by the Department of Industrial Accidents and a workers’ compensation judge.
Independent medical examinations are provided for in M.G.L. c.152, § 45. According to the law, If the employee refuses to submit to the examination or in any way obstructs it, his right to compensation shall be suspended, and his compensation during the period of suspension may be forfeited,”. That means that it’s in the worker’s best interest to show up for the IME.
While your workers’ compensation attorney will help you prepare for an IME, here are a few tips:
- Make sure that you arrive on time for your appointment.
- Remember that you will be under observation when you arrive in the parking lot for your appointment and as you leave the office.
- Come prepared to provide detailed information about your work injury, symptoms and any preexisting medical conditions, as well as how your work injury has prevented you from working and impacted your personal life.
- Ask for copies of any forms that you sign.
- Tell the truth. Any inconsistencies can be used against you.
Once an injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement, there are options as to the next course of action. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC, our legal team in Massachusetts knows that sometimes it’s necessary to challenge a finding of MMI. It might be possible to obtain a second opinion from another healthcare provider to determine if there is another medical option that will help increase the chances of a better recovery.
On the other hand, if MMI has been reached, the next step may be to apply for permanentand total disability benefits. PTD benefits are designed to compensate the injured worker for lost wages from future earnings that the worker would have earned had he or she been able to return to work.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) provides guidelines that determine the maximum level of compensation a workers’ compensation claimant may receive under a permanent and total disability rating.
Pursuant to EOLWD guidelines and Massachusetts General Laws, an injured worker with a PTD rating can receive two-thirds of his or her average weekly wage based upon the employee’s prior year of weekly earnings before suffering the disability. This figure is capped at the maximum of the state average weekly wage, or SAWW. Alternatively, PTD benefits could be calculated at a minimum of 20% percent of the SAWW where wages for a particular worker is lower than the SAWW.
To learn more or for help after suffering a work injury, contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today at (617) 367-2900 or through our online form to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.