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Massachusetts workers’ compensation law

Massachusetts law requires every business with employees to provide workers’ compensation insurance. Even a company with just one part-time employee must still offer workers’ comp coverage.

Which employees are exempt from workers’ compensation insurance in Massachusetts?

The state’s workers’ compensation statute is quite strict. The only exemption is for domestic service (household) employees who work less than 16 hours per week.

Do Massachusetts independent contractors need to be covered by workers’ comp?

Workers in the state of Massachusetts are considered to be employees for tax purposes. This means you will be required to provide them with workers’ comp coverage.

However, if you hire independent contractors, you won’t have to provide them with workers’ comp coverage if you can meet three tests:

  • Prove that they do not work under your direct control or supervision
  • Establish that they perform work that is outside the normal course of your business
  • Document that they have their own independent business or trade doing this kind of work

For more information on working with independent contractors in Massachusetts, refer to the state attorney general’s advisory.

Compare workers' compensation quotes for Massachusetts businesses

As a Massachusetts business owner, do I need to include myself under my workers’ comp policy?

In general, you must include yourself in your company’s workers’ comp insurance. However, there are three exceptions:

  • You’re a sole proprietor of an unincorporated business.
  • You’re a partner in a limited liability partnership (LLP).
  • You’re a member of a limited liability company (LLC).

Sole proprietors, partners, and members can choose to participate in their workers’ comp plan if they desire the protection it offers. Even though certain business owners aren’t required to have their own workers’ compensation coverage, their employees still need coverage.

Are corporate officers required to be covered by a workers’ comp policy?

Corporate officers are considered employees and must have workers’ comp coverage.

One exception applies: Corporate officers who own at least a 25% interest in their corporation can file for an exemption with the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents.

How does workers’ comp work in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts business owners can compare quotes and purchase a policy from private insurance companies. (Insureon offers this service with its online insurance marketplace.)

If a business owner is unable to qualify for a workers’ comp policy, he or she can buy it from the state’s assigned risk residual market, the Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts. This is the insurance plan of last resort for state employers that can’t find standard coverage due to their extensive number of past workers’ comp claims.

Massachusetts employers also can self-insure their workers' compensation claims. This means they’ll pay for their own workers’ comp medical and rehabilitation costs rather than submit them to their workers’ comp insurer. It also means they will be directly liable for any lawsuits injured or sick employees file against them.

To become self-insured, a Massachusetts business must have at least 300 employees and $750,000 in standard workers’ compensation insurance premiums and must prove to the state that it has enough capital to cover the costs of self-insurance.

What is the average cost of workers’ compensation insurance in Massachusetts?

Estimated employer costs for workers' compensation in Massachusetts are $0.73 per $100 covered in payroll.

What are the penalties for not having workers’ comp insurance in Massachusetts?

If you operate your business without workers’ compensation coverage, you may face stiff penalties in Massachusetts.

The state may issue a stop-work order (SWO) if you fail to provide workers’ comp insurance as mandated by state law. This means you will no longer be able to do business in the state.

In addition, you may face minimum fines of $100 per day, including weekends and holidays, for each day you fail to provide coverage. Your penalty bill will accrue daily until you provide insurance and pay your total fine.

If you don’t appeal the SWO, you must shut down immediately and stay closed until you provide workers’ comp coverage and pay your fine. If you decide to appeal the SWO, then you can remain open, but now your fine will increase to $250 per day.

Finally, any uninsured Massachusetts employer loses the ability to compete for public contracts.

Workers’ compensation death benefits in Massachusetts 

If an employee dies as a result of a work-related injury or illness, some family members may receive death benefits. These include weekly payments to cover a portion of the deceased employee’s income, along with funeral and burial costs.

Eligible family members include:

  • The deceased worker’s spouse, who must have been living with the person at the time of death
  • A child under age 18 or age 24 if going to school full time
  • A child of any age who is physically or mentally disabled
  • Other family members who fully or partially depended on the deceased worker’s financial support, determined on a case-by-case basis

The deceased worker’s dependent family members will receive death benefits calculated on the basis of the person’s pre-injury weekly pay.

Surviving spouses are eligible to receive weekly payments equaling 66% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage, but not to exceed the state average weekly wage (SAWW) at the time the worker died.

Spouses are eligible for yearly cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) once two years pass after the worker’s death.

If a spouse remarries, the deceased worker’s offspring will receive $60 a week, but not to exceed the spousal benefit.

Workers’ comp settlements in Massachusetts

A workers’ compensation settlement is an agreement between the injured employee, employer, and insurer that will resolve a workers’ compensation claim. This benefits both the employee and the employer.

A settlement in a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim involves an injured or sick employee giving up the right to receive any future workers’ comp benefits in exchange for receiving a lump-sum payment. Since this involves a worker forfeiting the right to future benefits, the state advises employees to make this decision carefully. It provides a lump-sum brochure to help them make a wise decision.

All settlements are subject to the approval of an administrative law judge or other conciliator at the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents.

Workers’ compensation statute of limitations in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts statute of limitations for workers’ comp claims is within four years of the time employees become aware their employment caused their injury or illness.

Compare free workers’ comp quotes with Insureon

If you are ready to explore workers’ comp insurance options for your Massachusetts business, start a free online application today to compare quotes from multiple carriers.

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