MA Workers’ Compensation Insurance Info for Business Owners

January 11, 2017

workers compensation insurance_If you own a business in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and you employ at least one person, you are legally required to secure workers’ compensation insurance.

In fact, you’re required to display a Notice to Employees poster somewhere in your workplace, communicating the name and contact information of your workers’ comp insurance company. Your insurance policy must be valid at all times. Failure to maintain proper coverage can result in hefty fines, stop work orders, debarment from public contracts, even criminal sanctions.

MA Workers’ Compensation Eligibility

Many small business owners mistakenly assume that certain employees are ineligible for workers’ comp because they are either:

  • part-time employees
  • paid “under the table”
  • not U.S. citizens.

The truth is that all of the above individuals are entitled to workers’ comp benefits if an incident occurs during work hours. In fact, even organizations that receive help from interns or unpaid volunteers can be called to task for injuries or illnesses that result from your work environment.

Types of Workers’ Compensation

Basic workers’ compensation is a statutory requirement. But it makes sense to insure your business beyond what the state mandates. Part B or “Coverage B” workers’ comp is a policy that covers medical care, rehabilitation costs, and lost income for employees who were injured on the job as a result of employer negligence.

Depending on the type of incident that occurs and the extent of the employee’s injury or illness, MA workers’ comp may be awarded in different forms and at different amounts. Workers’ comp benefits may cover:

  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages
  • Cost of Travel to Healthcare Appointments
  • Disability Benefits
  • Death Benefits

For example, if an employee injures her back while moving office equipment, and is out of work for more than five days, she may be entitled to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, at a rate of 60 percent of her average weekly wage (AWW). TTD benefits are subject to the annual limits in place at the time of the injury. Each year, new limits become effective on October 1 (see below). TTD benefits may be payable for up to 156 weeks.

If an employee is killed or permanently disabled as a result of an injury, worker’s comp may provide weekly death benefits up to two-thirds of the deceased employee’s AWW (plus up to $4,000 for burial expenses); or up to 75 percent of the employee’s TTD rate, in the form of permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. PPD benefits may be payable for up to 260 weeks.

Current MA Workers’ Compensation Rates

As of October 1, 2016, the maximum TTD rate is $1291.74, per week. The minimum rate is $258.25. These rates will extend through September 30, 2017.

Process of Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim

The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) is the department that oversees workers’ comp in Massachusetts. If one of your employees is injured at work, you’re obligated to report the injury to your insurance carrier and to the DIA. Your Massachusetts insurance agency can help with this process.

Specifically, you’ll need to electronically file Form 101: the Employer’s First Report of Injury/Fatality. After filing, you’ll need to print three copies: one for your records, one for your insurance carrier, and one that must be sent to the injured employee. You have seven calendar days (not including Sundays and legal holidays) from the fifth full or partial day of the incident to file. Submitting Form 101 does not mean you are admitting any liability.

Disputing a Workers’ Comp Claim

If you or your insurance carrier opt to contest the claim being made, there are four stages that may follow: conciliation, conference, hearing, and reviewing board. At each stage the DIA will work to reach an agreement with the disputing parties and their lawyers. Luckily, according to DIA data, 50 percent of all disputed workers’ comp claims are resolved in the very first (conciliation) stage.

Keep in mind, this is just a bare bones overview of workers’ comp insurance and the key facts that business owners should know. Together with the right insurance partner, there are many steps you can take (beyond securing coverage) to contain your business’ workers’ comp costs and to develop a strong safety culture—especially if you operate in construction, landscaping, roofing, waste hauling, or another hands-on industry.

Additional Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Information

Feel free to contact our team with any workers’ comp questions you have. Outside of regular office hours, the answers to most frequently asked questions about MA workers’ comp can be found in this employers’ guide. The DIA can also be reached directly at 617.727.4900.