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Section 34 - Temporary Total Disability Benefits
M.G.L. Chapter 152, Section 34 benefits is section of the Massachusetts Workers Comp Law that provides weekly disability payments for those who are totally disabled on a temporary basis. This temporary period of total disability might be the days following a sprained ankle, or the 2 year period following a herniated lumbar disc, which results in extensive treatment, including surgery.
Section 34 provides weekly payments to the Employee in the amount of 60% of the employee's pre-injury average weekly wage.
For example, if an electrician sustained a work related shoulder injury rendering him unable to work and requiring surgery, he should be entitled to receive Section 34 benefits. If this employee were making $1,000 per week for the 52-week period preceding the work injury, he would be entitle to receive $600 per week ($1,000 x 60%), while he remains out of work. It is important to note that this payment of $600 is tax free. No taxes are paid on this amount. The employee takes home the full check.
It is also important to note that any injury can result in a period of total disability. Even relatively minor injuries such as a sprained ankle, or a broken finger.
Section 34 benefits are available for a maximum of 3 years, or 156 weeks. Upon the exhaustion of Section 34 benefits, two common, potential options for the Employee are either Section 35 (temporary partial disability) or Section 34A (permanent and total disability).
Section 35 would be the likely option if total disability ceases, and the employee retains some ability to earn wages (an earning capacity). In the example above, let's assume the electrician were to have surgery and recover after 1 year, however, still have certain restrictions that prevented him from performing his old job, such as no overhead work. In that scenario, an Administrative Judge at the Department of Industrial Accidents may say that this employee had the ability to earn around minimum wage and assign a $500 per week earning capacity. This may result in a reduction of the Employee's weekly compensation rate, in the following way. (pre-injury average weekly wage - assigned earning capacity) x 60%. Or, ($1,000 - $500) = $500 x 60% = $300. In this scenario, the employee would receive Section 35 payments of $300 per week. It is important to note that he could collect this weekly comp rate and earn up to his full assigned earning capacity, so ($500 = $300) = $800 total.
For more information on Section 35 benefits, click here.
If the same electrician had extensive treatment, including multiple surgeries, injections, and physical therapy, with bad results, he may remain totally disabled upon the exhaustion of the 3 years of Section 34. In this scenario, he could be entitled to Section 34A. If awarded this benefit, he would be entitled to 2/3rd or 66.666% of his pre-injury average weekly wage, or ($1,000 x 66.666%) = $666.67 per week.
Fore more information on Section 34A benefits, click here.
If you've sustained an injury on the job, you could be entitled to benefits. Very often, the Insurer will commence payments promptly. Equally often, they will not. Having an experienced north shore workers comp lawyer on your side will help ensure that your rights are protected. Even if the workers compensation insurance company does commence payments promptly, it is still highly advisable to have an experienced workers comp lawyer representing you from the start.
At Troupe Law Office, we've been representing injured workers and their families for close to 50 years. We are experienced workers comp attorneys located on the North Shore of Boston in Peabody. We serve all of Massachusetts and represent clients in all branches of the DIA, including: Boston, Lawrence, Fall River, Worcester, and Springfield.
Call us for a free consultation of your case.