Permanent Loss of Function, Scarring, & Disfigurment Benefits
Many injuries have a permanent aspect to them. Whether it’s a knee injury that never gets back to 100%, a scar, or even the loss of a limb, permanency comes in my varieties. In Massachusetts, Workers Compensation benefits function by awarding money to workers who have lost an eye or foot or finger or other body part. These are commonly referred to as Section 36 benefits.What are Section 36 Benefits?
In Massachusetts, there is a detailed schedule calculating the dollar amount that insurers must pay to injured workers who have suffered a physical loss and permanent impairment. The calculations are based upon the State Average Weekly Wage [SAWW] at the time of the loss, not the injured worker’s wage. The payment is small consolation for the permanent loss; but it is something. A finger amputation may be $5,000.00. Totally inadequate for a guitar-player who can never play again. This is one of the compromises under the workers compensation laws, which does not allow for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.How are Section 36 Benefits Calculated?
There are detailed calculations covered under chapter 152, section 36 of MA General Laws. It involves partial and permanent loss of eyesight to one or both eyes. It covers partial and total loss of hearing. This section of the law also covers the amputation or loss of arms and legs – and more usually a permanent percentage loss of function to an arm, leg, neck, shoulder or back. Fingers, hands and elbows are considered part of the major or minor arm for calculation purposes. Toe, foot and knee are considered part of the major or minor leg.
The law provides more money compensation the more serious the loss. If eyeglasses reduce the permanent eye injury, the award payment will be less. If a person injured both knees or feet, the award will be more, as the impairment is greater.
A bodily disfigurement suffered by an injured worker is also compensable. You can get paid for scars on the face, necks and hands, but not any other part of the body. Scarring is paid based upon the length and width and discoloration of each scar. Top payment for disfigurement is $15,000.00 according to the statute.Examples of Section 36 Awards
Impairments are usually determined according to American Medical Association guidelines. This means that a doctor, usually a specialist, must examine you before a payment amount can be determined. Total loss of one eye is the SAWW [$1561.00] x 39 weeks, which is $60,879. A partial loss would be less based upon the doctor's examination. Loss of both eyes is 96 weeks, which is $149,856.00. In a civil suit outside the workers compensation statute, such a loss would pay the injured person into the millions of dollars. We, at Marcotte Law Firm, have obtained million dollar settlements for such losses.
Total loss of hearing in both ears is 77 weeks. Amputation of a major arm is 43 weeks; a minor arm is 39 weeks. Both arms is 96 weeks. Loss of an elbow is 65% of the arm and a total loss of function to the shoulder is 60% of the arm. Total loss of a major hand is 34 weeks [34 x $1561.00] or $53,074.00. Loss of a minor hand is 29 weeks. Loss of both hands is 77 weeks.
The schedule of losses is very detailed, down to the fingers and toes. Fingers are 40% of the hand. The first phalange of the thumb is 75% of the hand. The large toe is 18% of the foot. Other toes are each 5% of the foot. Total loss of the foot is 29 weeks [29 x $1561.00] or $45,269.00. Loss of both feet is 68 weeks.
Brain injury is a percentage of 32 weeks. Lung and kidney are each a percentage of 16 weeks. Loss of spleen and sexual function are each a maximum of 10 weeks. You would get a week for the loss of each tooth. Your right to medical/dental care would cover dental care and replacement.
Severe back injury, including failed surgeries, result in a percentage of permanent impairment. A orthopedic specialist would determine the percentage loss of function to each portion of the spine. This is often contested by the insurance company. Need for permanent use of a cane or wheel chair is calculated in the loss of function part of the schedule.Experienced Workers Compensation Attorneys
While these awards may seem formulaic, every injury is different. That’s why a good lawyer is needed to ensure that your injury is properly documented. A good lawyer for the injured employee is often able to persuade a judge to accept the calculations of the treating employee's doctor.
If you have a permanent injury from a work injury, call the experienced lawyers at Marcotte Law Firm for a free consultation.