Transit (MBTA) Worker Injury in Boston
At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our dedicated workers' compensation attorneys in Boston can help injured MBTA workers get back on their feet financially after a job-related accident or illness by fighting to secure full and proper benefits, as well as exploring the potential for third-party litigation for additional compensation (if the negligence of someone other than your employer or co-workers caused or contributed to your injuries).
Boston's reputation as the heart and hub of New England is both historically and currently linked to its transportation connections (the country's very first subways are still in use under the Boston Common). Critical to Boston's connectivity is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA for short), which oversees the subway, buses, commuter rail, and ferries. These modes of travel are commonly referred to as "The T."
The T handles some 1.3 million passenger trips daily, with a service area that includes 175 cities and towns in the commonwealth, managing 172 bus routes, five rapid transit lines, three ferry routes and paratransit to 60 communities in eastern Massachusetts. The authority employs more than 6,400 people, and jobs are highly-sought (especially given that one-third of MBTA employees make more than $100,000 a year). Almost half of the 283,000 trips destined for core neighborhoods starting outside Boston are made by public transportation, and 70 percent of all MBTA rapid transit boarding occurring in Boston.
MBTA workers face a range of threats to their health and safety on-the-job, depending on their role. Employment is widely varied and includes drivers, mechanics, software engineers, rail service workers, security, customer service representatives, operators, cashiers, researchers, engineers, dispatchers, construction workers, and support staff.
The MBTA is self-insured for workers' compensation. In addition to workers of the MBTA, other commonly-used public transport systems operated outside of Boston include:
Brockton Area Transportation Authority (BAT)
Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA)
Southeastern Regional Transportation Authority (SRTA)
Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA)
Pioneer Valley Transportation Authority (PVTA)
Merrimack Regional Transportation Authority (MVRTA)
Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA)
Transit worker injury runs the gamut, but crashes/ derailment is among the biggest concern because these injuries are often traumatic. More than a few workers have died in these and other on-the-job accidents.
Risks of Working for MBTA
Public transportation workers face a range of health and safety risks. Some of the hazards transit workers face include:
Slip-and-fall accidents. Spills or oil slicks on platforms or within vehicles/ vessels can pose a hazard.
Cuts and lacerations. We see this primarily among mechanics who sometimes must use sharp tools and heavy machinery.
Traffic accident or derailment. The MBTA leads the nation in the number of derailments, with the authority recently reporting eight in a single year. It doesn't help that many MBTA workers are compelled to work so much overtime (hence, the high number who are getting paid more than $100k salaries). This contributes to fatigue, which can lead to mistakes that cause crashes or derailments. In 2008, an MBTA driver on the Green Line was suspended after a rider reported him asleep at the wheel. In December 2012, a Green Line conductor fell asleep at the helm of a trolley, causing a crash that injured 35 passengers. In July 2013, MBTA employee operating an agency train was captured on video falling asleep on the job. In 2014, an MBTA worker was disciplined after photos surfaced of him sleeping on-the-job at the
Quincy bus garage. In 2016, a guard in an MBTA "money room" was filmed sleeping in her office.
Falls from heights. Those who work to maintain and repair subway lines and cars may be at especially high risk.
Struck-by. Those who maintain and repair subway lines or other facilities nearby are in danger of struck-by incidents. Numerous instances across the country have been reported wherein transit workers fell onto the tracks and suffered fatal injuries. In 2005, one T worker was killed and another seriously injured when they were struck by an inbound Orange Line train while clearing snow from tracks at the station in Medford.
Noise pollution. Those who work in subway tunnels especially are routinely subjected to noise described as "screeching" and "deafening." Yet workers aren't permitted to wear ear protection on-the-job for safety reasons. In the 2017 case of Griffin v. MBTA, workers' compensation awarded to a laborer working for the T was upheld by the Department of Industrial Accidents, finding he'd suffered permanent hearing loss as a result occupational noise exposure.
Violence. Bus drivers and other transit operators are at high risk for workplace violence. The Federal Transit Administration reports 135 assaults on transit operators annually, but that is likely a low estimate. Assaults that occur while vehicles are in operation can be incredibly dangerous not just for the employee, but for riders, occupants of other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Aggravation of preexisting medical conditions. Transit work is often physically exhausting work, and it can result in aggravation of preexisting conditions. These are compensable under workers' compensation, as was concluded in the 2005 DIA decision in Myers v. MBTA. In that case, per court records, the worker was driving a defective bus that tossed her from her seat while traveling on bumpy roads, causing the seat belt to irritate her scar from a previous bladder surgery and resulting in abdominal pain. Her award of workers' compensation benefits was affirmed.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that across the U.S., transit and ground passenger transportation workers had a rate of job-related injury and illness of 4.6 for every 100 full-time workers. There are also an average of 80 worker fatalities in this sector each year.
Expect MBTA to Get More Vigorous in Fighting Workers' Compensation Claims
Consultants estimated that over a recent 10-year span, workers' compensation payouts represented 1.7 percent of the MBTA's total operating expenses.
In that report, the agency was praised for its "aggressive investigation of workers' compensation claims" and "cost containment management style."
Here's the thing: Yes, there have been a few (unfortunately high-profile) cases of workers' compensation fraud among MBTA workers (i.e., the trolley driver who paid a man to dress up in a Halloween costume and attack him at work). However, the reality is those cases only make headlines because they are so rare - and the authority makes a big deal about them (most likely to influence public opinion and justify its "aggressive" investigation of overwhelmingly legitimate work injury claims). In truth, national researchers examining this issue have concluded time and again that employee fraud and false claims only account for roughly 1 to 2 percent of all benefits paid. What's costlier by far is employer fraud, in the form of underreporting payroll, misclassifying employees as independent contractors and misrepresenting claims experience.
A recent operating expense detail from MBTA revealed about $4.6 million annually in workers' compensation costs for the agency.
If you are looking for legal help in filing your MBTA workers' compensation claim, we can assist you.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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