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Potential causes of dispute in workers' compensation claims

The filing of workers' compensation claims has the potential to sour even a perfectly cordial professional relationship. Many of the disputes in Massachusetts regarding such claims arise when trust breaks down between the two parties. These suspicions are often compounded as medical costs rise, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration begins an investigation or when the following factors come into the discussion:

  • Permanent disability compensation
  • Lost wages due to injury
  • Occupational disease

Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees. Failure to comply with state and federal regulations may result in not only diminished productivity due to workplace injury accident, but also a costly audit by the government. As illustrated on the Department of Labor's online data resource, discovery of an OSHA violation, or set of violations, might result in high initial penalties. Workers typically initiate these investigations by submitting a formal request to the appropriate office. Fees are issued in addition to costs associated with legal proceedings, such as court fees or damages paid to injured workers filing civil action, and often start at around $40,000 for serious incidents. 

While recent health care reform in Massachusetts targeted workers compensation claims specifically, this does not mean the end of contention regarding workplace injuries or diseases. A paper from Upjohn Institute discovered that the health care overhaul resulted in lower emergency room medical expenses overall for musculoskeletal injuries. Some common causes of workers' compensation claims fall under this category:

  • Back injury
  • Neck injury
  • Repetitive stress syndrome

Even though patients sought cheaper treatment for these muscular, tendinous and skeletal injuries, costs of uncommon problems were not affected drastically by the reform.

Every worker's injury claim represents a cost to the employer. It stands to reason that higher costs create more hostile environments. While recent health reforms in the state lowered the economic burden for some of the most common injuries, workers and other injured parties might still expect a contentious environment while pursuing serious or complicated claims.

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