Massachusetts Appellate Court Issues Opinion Discussing Injured In-Home Care Provider

As seasoned Boston work injury lawyers, workers often ask us what will happen in situations where their employer fails to maintain a workers’ compensation insurance. In many cases, these individuals work for someone in an informal arrangement, such as an in-home care provider who provides daily, around-the-clock assistance for a disabled or elderly individual. These agreements are usually quite vague and hard to understand, and even harder to interpret in a claim. Our experienced team of legal professionals is prepared to help you defend your right to workers’ compensation benefits and the assistance that you need to cope with your injuries.

Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals heard a case in which a live-in care provider sought workers’ compensation benefits for injuries that she allegedly sustained while working in the home of an elderly woman and her daughter. The elderly woman offered the daughter room and board in exchange for providing a few hours of work to assist the elderly woman. The parties entered into a verbal agreement and did not write a formal agreement. The worker testified, however, that she would end up working 30-40 hours per week providing constant care to the elderly woman, including household maintenance, clerical duties, and physical assistance. The daughter did not live in the home. One day, the woman reportedly fell while walking down a staircase at the house and suffered an injury. She was unable to continue working and moved in with her cousin.

The worker brought the claim against the Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund (WCTF) because the daughter and the elderly woman did not have workers’ compensation insurance. The WCTF and the worker settled, but there were a number of issues that arose in the case, requiring the judge to join the daughter as the worker’s employer. A judge can do this in situations where the employer can provide clarification.

The workers’ compensation commissioner concluded that the worker and the daughter had entered into a formal work agreement and that the parties created a contract. The daughter argued that the verbal agreement was for two hours per day and that there was no “firm agreement” providing for the worker to provide more hours than that. The appellate court dismissed this issue based on the daughter’s failure to raise it at any prior point in the proceedings. There are special rules that apply to live-in assistance that provide 16 hours or less in assistance during a week.

Next, the daughter objected to the settlement award claiming that she was not allowed an opportunity to be involved in the negotiations or creation of the settlement’s terms. The reviewing court also rejected this agreement, stating that she had multiple opportunities to be involved with the proceedings regarding the settlement. She attended multiple hearings and was provided with several changes to provide her input and any potential objections to the terms.

If you were hurt at work, the Law Office of Michael O. Smith is ready to help you determine the best approach to securing workers’ compensation benefits and medical expenses reimbursements. Our dedicated team of work injury lawyers has handled a wide variety of injury cases on behalf of Massachusetts residents. To schedule a free consultation, call our office at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.