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Section 36, Chapter 152: Specific Injuries

In some of the worst workers’ compensation accidents, an injured worker may suffer the loss of an arm, hand, foot, leg, or eye. These workplace accidents can render a worker unable to do the work they once did, or in some cases even live the kind of life they once had. Section 36 of Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL), discusses the formula the state uses to compensate employees for these types of severe and often life-altering injuries. The statute outlines loss of function, disfigurement and scarring benefits that injured workers are entitled to under Section 36. It is important to note that this special compensation for these types of injuries is paid above and beyond any other weekly workers’ compensation benefits. Section 36 benefits are generally paid in a single lump sum payment directly to the injured employee.

Work Accidents that Result in Loss of Limb

Workplace accidents involving amputation can occur in a variety of different ways, but one of the more common causes is when the employee gets a limb caught in some type of machine. This can include any piece of moving machinery that may be used at an industrial jobsite, or it can be something seen at most jobsites, like a garbage compacter.

One of the common causes of an amputation of a limb is when the employee is using a machine that is not properly locked out. Let’s look at a garbage compactor, for example. This is a huge machine fitted with a dumpster. These systems are in just about every supermarket and big box retailer in the Boston area, as well as most factories. There is a press at one end that compacts the garbage to allow much more garbage to be packed into the dumpster before a truck comes to haul the dumpster away. A hydraulic ram or possibly some type of screw mechanism that moves the crushing surface to the waste material typically powers the compactor. At some point, a bag of garbage or other piece of waste may become stuck on the compactor and prevent it from sliding back and forth properly. When the compactor becomes stuck, an employee will typically have to go into the compactor and remove whatever is blocking the mechanism by hand. The employee is supposed to put a lockout device on the controls prior to cleaning out the blockage, so that it cannot be turned on while the employee is in the machine. If this not done or if there is no lockout device present, other employees might see the compactor is not being used and could turn it on while the other employee is inside. Such a scenario could result in the employee being crushed to death or having an arm or leg caught in the crushing mechanism. Even if the machine doesn’t cause an amputation at the time, it is possible the employee will have an amputation at the hospital.

There are many cases where the employee does not use the lockout device, or the device is not there. Another type of workplace accident that can result in an amputation is what is known as a machine guarding accident. As we have discussed in various posts on our Boston workers’ compensation blog, when a machine is not properly guarded with safety screens or restraining bars, a worker may become trapped in the mechanism. This could, and often does, result in amputation injuries.

Loss of Vision

Pursuant to subsection (a) of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 152 Section 36, the loss of an eye by enucleation or other reason will allow for special damages. As defined by the New York Eye Cancer Center, enucleation is the removal of an eye in such a way that the rest of the eye muscles and remaining orbital contacts are left intact. This is where the entire eyeball is removed. Once this has occurred, a “glass” eye can be designed. However, unlike in the movies, they are not typically made of glass anymore, and they are not round balls. It is designed to look like the front portion of a normal eyeball, and it can be made to look very realistic. Another type of eye removal due to a job injury is called evisceration. This involves removing part of the eye but leaving the outer coating.

If we are dealing with an injury that involves only one eye, or the loss of binocular vision, the compensation you are entitled to is calculated by multiplying the current state average weekly wage (SAWW) by 39. For example, assume the SAWW is $1,200 (Note: this is not the actual number at this time), and the worker entirely loses one eye, he or she would be entitled to a single payment of $46,800.00. If the worker lost the use of both eyes, or the eyes were physically removed, the SAWW would be multiplied by 92.

Loss of an Ear

If a workplace injury victim loses hearing in one ear, he or she would be entitled to the SAWW at the time of the injury times 29. If there is a loss of hearing in both ears, the amount would be the SAWW multiplied by 77. As you can see, the loss of vision in both eyes is considered a somewhat more severe injury than the loss of your hearing, and this does make some sense in terms of your ability to lead a more normal life.

Amputation of a limb following a Boston Workplace Accident

In the case of a loss of limb, there are different rates of compensation depending on what limb we are talking about and whether or not the limb in question was the dominant or non-dominant limb.

If you lose the total use of one hand at the wrist, and it is your dominant hand, the special compensation would be calculated by multiplying the state average weekly wage at time of the amputation by 34. If the injury is to the non-dominant or “minor” hand, the special compensation owed is the SAWW at the time of the injury times 29. If there is a loss of both hands at the wrists, the SAWW is multiplied by 77.

For a leg, the SAWW will be multiplied by 39. It does not matter which leg is injured in this example, but if both legs are injured, the SAWW is multiplied by 92. In the case of the loss of a foot at any point above the ankle joint, the special compensation will be calculated by 29. If the injury involved the loss of both feet at any point above the ankle, the special compensation will be calculated as the SAWW times 68.

Scarring

While there is not a special compensation award for most scarring as a result of a Boston workplace accident, there will be compensation for scarring to the face, neck, or hands, if that scarring is expected to be permanent.

Additionally, there are also compensation awards for an injury that results in the loss of a sense. This can be rather complex to estimate so it is best to speak with our experienced workers’ compensation attorney about the facts of your Boston workplace injury.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.

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