How Long Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
This is another frequently asked question that comes up many times over the life of a Workers’ Comp case. While reasonable and related medical benefits for a person who sustained an injury at work can potentially last indefinitely, this question is most often referring to how long can an injured employee remain on weekly disability benefits. In other words, they are usually asking, how long can I be paid for.
The Massachusetts Workers’ Comp. Law is found at M.G.L. Chapter 152. This statute was originally enacted during the early 1900s, and has undergone a series of updates, revisions, and changes since that time. Today, there are 3 main sections that exist in the law which govern how long an injured employee can receive a weekly check. They are Sections 34, 35, and 34A.
Section 34 is known as temporary total disability. If an employee sustains an injury that prevents them from working in any capacity (ie, totally disabled), then they are entitled to receive 60% of their gross wages on a weekly basis. For example, if the injured employee were making $1000 per week, gross, prior to his or her injury, then that person would be eligible to receive Section 34 benefits at the rate of $600 per week. This benefit can last for up to 3 year, or 156 weeks.
Next, is Section 35, or temporary partial disability. If an employee sustains an injury that prevents that from performing their former position, but they do have the capacity to work in a lighter position, then that person would be eligible to receive partial disability under Section 35. The amount the injured employee receives depends on 1) what they were making before their injury, and 2) what their earnings capacity is post injury.
To illustrate, assume the same employee mentioned above, who was making $1000 per week, was working as a pipe fitter. This work generally involves constant, repetitive overhead work. Assume that this person sustains a shoulder injury, preventing them from their former position, but the employer offers them a desk job at $400 per week. In this situation, barring any other factors to the contrary, the employee could accept that position and still receive a weekly comp check. His rate would be determined in the following way: take his or her original weekly rate, subtract the new rate, and take 60% of the difference. In this example, this would play out as follows: $1000 – $400 = $600. $600 x 60% = $360 weekly partial disability rate.
Section 35 is available for up to 5 years, or 260 weeks.
It is important to note that his is a very general example, and many factors go in to determining Section 35.
The maximum partial disability rate, or max partial, is %75 of the employee’s Section 34 rate. So, if the temporary total disability rate under Section 34 were $600, the most the employee could receive on partial disability would be $600 x 75%, or $450 per week.
Finally, another caveat on the length of time someone can receive both Section 34 and 35 is that the total number of years of entitlement under these two sections cannot exceed 7 years. Even though Section 34 has a limit of 3 years, and Section 35 has a limit of 5, the injured employee cannot get more than 7 years between the two sections. So, if the injured employee received all 3 years of Section 34, he or she would only be entitled to 4 additional years under Section 35.
Finally, Section 34A is permanent and total disability. If an injured employee were found to be unable to engage in any employment on a permanent basis, they could be entitled to Section 34A, which pays 66% of the gross, pre-injury wages. If approved, then the injured employee could remain on Section 34A for the rest of their life. There is no time limit.
See our Frequently Asked Questions page for additional information.