In Massachusetts, the law requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which covers injured workers for medical bills and lost wages caused by workplace injuries. These benefits are available regardless of who is at fault for the injury. As with any field, individuals who are injured while working on farms or anywhere in the agricultural industry should contact a workers’ compensation attorney immediately, as having a lawyer will likely make a big difference in how the insurance company responds to your claim.
Farmers Face Risks
Farmworkers tend to have more serious injuries than workers in most other jobs, as farms usually present dangerous work conditions. Many lifelong farmers have had close calls with machines, and new and seasoned farmers alike are no strangers to experiencing pain after a long day’s work. Unfortunately, many of the injuries farmworkers have sustained could have been avoided by proper training, or by following safety protocol. In some cases, injuries have occurred because the farm owner or operator has removed safety devices from equipment or in order to save time or money. While workers’ compensation benefits are available regardless of reason or fault behind the injury, if the employer tampers or fails to maintain safety devices and it results in the injury of an employee, additional compensation can be awarded.
Types of Injuries
Farmworkers in Massachusetts have been killed or permanently maimed by malfunctioning equipment, tractor rollovers, building collapses, and suffocation by grain entrapment, to name a few. Other common injuries include strains and sprains from heavy lifting, as well as repetitive stress injuries to the knees, shoulders, back, and hips. Aside from the obvious dangers of farm working, farm work is particularly dangerous because in the rural areas where farms are located emergency services may not be close by; it may take extra time to get to a phone to call for help and it may take extra time for help to arrive.
Children and Migrant Workers
This topic requires mention of two particularly vulnerable classes of employees, children and migrant workers. Farming is one of the few jobs that children can lawfully obtain. In Massachusetts, children of any age can work on a farm owned by their parents and children aged 12 and 13 can work on any farm with parental consent. While children tend to more easily bounce back from injuries that might take an adult completely out of service, it’s fair to say that children are probably less likely to report injuries or to seek help, firstly because they don’t know their rights, and also are more susceptible to pressure from employers to keep things quiet.
Migrant workers often do not know their rights and fear retaliation if they were to report a work injury. Many migrant farmworkers work and live on farm property, often in terrible conditions and unfair pay; their employers may be in violation of the law in more ways than one. These workers often travel in large groups across state lines, going from farm to farm looking for work. Even looking for work in this field poses risks; in 2002, a van carrying migrant workers in Maine crashed, killing fourteen people. Migrant workers injured on the job often fear deportation, depending on their immigration status, if they were to report a work injury or seek medical care. Undocumented workers—foreign workers in Massachusetts that do not have a work visa or green card—often think that their status even prevents them from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. This is not true. In Massachusetts, any person injured at work is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of immigration status.
Farmers Have Rights
Regardless of age, immigration status, or length of employment, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation insurance. Medical bills that result from your injury could cost you more than you have. Workers’ compensation benefits are regularly awarded to farmers who suffered injuries while working.
If you or a family member has been injured while working on a farm, contact Keches Law Group at 617-898-0808 or online for a free consultation today. One of our experienced attorneys can come to you if you are unable to come to one of our office locations, and we will begin the process of getting you compensation for your lost wages right away.