Although some working relationships are clear cut, there are instances where it is not clear whether someone is in a formal employee position. This comes up most frequently when someone begins providing in-home care for an ailing individual. Many of these employment positions can have very informal employment relationships. At Mass Injury Group, we proudly provide legal counsel to individuals who are dealing with workers’ compensation claims in Massachusetts.
Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeal issued an opinion in a case where an in-home care provider who claimed that she fell down a set of stairs on the backside of a house when she was providing in-home care for an elderly woman. The fall was so severe that she was unable to return to work and had to move-in with a relative, according to her claim. The woman began working as an in-home care provider when the elderly woman’s daughter asked her whether she would be interested in the job and explained what it would involve. The worker testified that the job required roughly 30 to 40 hours of care each week and taking care of daily maintenance tasks around the home.
The worker sought benefits from the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund. According to her claim, her employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance when she was injured while working. The claimant and the WCTF reached a settlement agreement but her employer was not part of the agreement. This created many procedural issues with the case and the parties were confused as to how to resolve the dispute. A judge has the power under Massachusetts law to join an uninsured employer in a claim. The judge exercised that authority in this matter.
The court determined that the claimant was an official full-time employee of the elderly woman’s daughter. The daughter appealed this determination on the basis that the verbal agreement she entered into with the woman only covered two hours of in-home care a day and that they did not have a “firm agreement” about what she was required to do. The daughter also said that the accident did not take place during the course and scope of the woman’s employment duties. She said she offered the woman room and board in exchange for providing two hours of care for her mother per day. The appellate court ultimately rejected this argument on the basis that the daughter didn’t invoke laws regarding domestic servants earlier in the dispute. There are a series of laws that apply to in-home care providers who work for six hours or less each week. If you do not bring up an issue at the appropriate time during a dispute, then you may waive the ability to bring it up further down the road.
The appellate court also rejected the daughter’s argument that the settlement agreement was invalid on the basis that she was not involved in reaching its conclusion. The appellate court reviewed the record and found that she had many opportunities to participate in the creation of the settlement.
If you were injured on the job as an in-home care provider then you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The rules governing in-home workers can be complex and difficult to navigate while you are healing from your injuries. Contact the seasoned workers’ compensation lawyers at Mass Injury Group now to schedule your free consultation. Call us at 617-263-0060 or contacts online to get started.