Willful Misconduct by Employers

Close up of male handsWorkers’ Compensation Attorneys Representing Residents of Boston

Employers in Massachusetts must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This is a type of coverage that provides wage and medical benefits to individuals with job-related injuries, irrespective of fault. If, however, the accident or illness was the result of the employer’s willful misconduct, the worker may be eligible for additional reimbursement. The workers’ compensation lawyers at Pulgini & Norton can help you seek benefits if you were hurt in a Boston workplace. We have more than 40 years of combined experience in these cases and can advise you on whether you have a claim, including for additional compensation based on your employer’s misconduct.

Willful Misconduct by Employers

Under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Law, every employer in the state must carry workers’ compensation insurance. If a worker suffers a job-related injury or illness, the insurance provides the worker with certain benefits. These benefits include compensation for reasonable medical costs, lost wages based on the severity of the injury, vocational rehabilitation, and survivor or dependent benefits.

Workers’ compensation is a type of no-fault insurance. The benefits are provided to eligible injured or ill employees regardless of whether the harm was caused by the employer, a co-worker, or the employee. In exchange for these benefits, injured workers essentially give up their right to pursue a civil suit against their employers. The employers get the benefit of the “exclusive remedy rule,” meaning that their liability for workplace injuries is limited to the benefits payable under workers’ compensation.

Some workplace accidents, however, are not the result of mere negligence. Employers or supervisors may willfully engage in conduct that places workers at an unreasonably high risk of injury. In some states, an employer’s willful misconduct is an exception to the exclusive remedy rule, which allows the worker to bring a civil action against the employer. Massachusetts, however, does not make an exception for willful misconduct. Instead, the state gives the injured worker the right to additional compensation. Under section 28 of the Workers’ Compensation Law, an injured worker is entitled to double the amount of his or her wage and medical benefits if the harm was caused by the employer’s willful misconduct. The insurer pays the injured worker the excess amount, but the employer is ultimately responsible to the insurer for the additional compensation.

An employer or supervisor engages in willful misconduct if a reasonable person would know or have reason to know that its action, or failure to act, will result in a high risk of bodily harm to another person. Willful misconduct is egregious behavior that amounts to a reckless disregard for a worker’s safety, or that is quasi-criminal in nature. It generally consists of an overt act by the employer. For instance, coercing an employee into a dangerous situation, or a series of OSHA violations, could constitute willful misconduct. A failure to act, however, may also rise to the level of willful misconduct. For example, an employer’s failure to take the necessary safety measures to protect its workers could constitute willful misconduct in some cases. Employing a minor is considered serious and willful misconduct under the Workers’ Compensation Law. A person with a mental disability may also be considered a minor, irrespective of age.

Discuss Your Work Injury Claim with a Boston Lawyer

The work injury attorneys at Pulgini & Norton understand the impact that a job-related accident can have on a Boston worker and his or her family. We have significant experience navigating through the complex nature of the workers’ compensation claims process. If your employer’s willful misconduct caused an accident, we can help you seek additional compensation for your injury. Our firm represents workers in Weymouth, Somerville, and Hyde Park, among other communities. For a consultation, give us a call today at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.