Kohl testifies at workers' compensation hearing

Thursday, May. 28, 2015
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MBA Workers' Compensation Chair Deborah G. Kohl

Currently, when Massachusetts workers suffer permanent bodily harm and scarring to their face, neck and hands, they are only eligible for maximum coverage up to $15,000 under the Massachusetts workers' compensation law. The compensation allowed is based on figures that were set almost 25 years ago, and because disfigurement awards are based on the current statewide average weekly wage, as wages has increased over the years, disfigurement awards have shrunk.

In addition, many of the serious injuries that happen on the job resulting in permanent disfigurement occur in less visible places than the face, hands or neck, and can impact a worker's ability to obtain and retain employment. Most importantly, scarring on the upper extremities may serve as a bar to employment and should be compensated accordingly.

Kohl was joined by Judson Pierce, who chairs the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys' Workers' Comp Section, and Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the executive director of MassCOSH, who testified in support of House Bill No. 1707 and Senate Bill No.968, which would amend M.G.L. c. 152, s. 36 subsection k., by removing the requirement that permanent scarring and disfigurement compensation be limited to the face, hands and neck. Additionally, the bills seek an increase in the maximum allowable benefit to 22.5 times the statewide average weekly wage in Massachusetts. By indexing the maximum benefit, changes in the statewide average weekly wage will not result in differential values for workers scarred or disfigured in industrial accidents.