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COMPENSATION FOR SPECIFIC INJURIES AND FOR TOTAL
AND TEMPORARY DISABILITIES.
Regarding compensation for injuries to workmen arising out of and in the course of their employment, and for compensation for permanent disability and to dependents after the death, there is great room for improvement in the Massachusetts statute. Allowance for medical aid and temporary disability may generally be determined by the obvious necessities and the facts in each particular case, but in the case of permanent disability and death the consequences are more far reaching and direct. There is great room for divergence of opinion as to the amount of compensation and the method by which it is given. There should be a proper relationship, on the one hand, be-. tween the death benefits and awards for permanent disability, and, on the other hand for awards for different degrees of permanent disability. A laborer, whose occupation is digging a trench, may lose one or more fingers from either hand, and after the finger has healed, as far as earning capacity is concerned, be practically no worse off than before the injury. In many trades, however, the loss of the fingers would mean that the person thus injured will be precluded from continuing his former employment. A bookkeeper may lose a leg, and after the injury is healed and an artificial limb is substituted be just as valuable to his employer and capable of earning as high wages as he was before the injury. A bridge worker, or any worker in an occupation which requires the use of two good legs, would, as the result of a similar injury, be absolutely thrown out of that employment, and be forced to seek one at a lower wage level. A boy of sixteen who loses a hand in industry is not in the same position as regards compensation as a man of sixty-five who similarly loses his hand. There is also a great difference in the future earning capacity of an injured employee whether the hand or arm that he loses out of industry is the major hand or arm or otherwise. On all these various kinds of disability the Massachusetts law is unsatisfactory and insufficient.
Comparing the law in this particular with the laws in other States, we find, first, that Massachusetts has granted:
(a) For the loss by severance of both hands at or above the wrist, or both feet at or above the ankle, or the loss of one hand and one foot, or the reduction to one tenth of normal vision in both eyes with glasses, one half of the average weekly wages of the injured person, but not more than ten dollars nor less than four dollars a week, for a period of one hundred weeks.
(6) For the loss by severance of either hand at or above the wrist, or either foot at or above the ankle, or the reduction to one tenth of normal vision in either eye with glasses, one half the average weekly wages of the injured person, but not more than ten dollars nor less than four dollars a week, for a period of fifty weeks.
(c) For the loss by severance at or above the second joint of two or more fingers, including thumbs, or toes, one half the average weekly wages of the injured person, but not more than ten dollars nor less than four dollars a week, for a period of twenty-five weeks.
(d) For the loss by severance of at least one phalange of a finger, thumb, or toe, one half the average weekly wages of the injured person, but not more than ten dollars nor less than four dollars a week, for a period of twelve weeks.
(e) The additional amounts provided for in this section in case of the loss of a hand, foot, thumb, finger or toe shall also be paid for the number of weeks above specified, in case the injury is such that the hand, foot, thumb, finger or toe is not lost but is so injured as to be permanently incapable of use.
The Massachusetts law takes no account of whether the loss is in the major hand, i.e., the hand with which the employee does his work; it takes no account of whether the injury is to a boy of sixteen or to a man of seventy. A married man with a family to support, earning $10 a week, loses his right hand, and receives twenty-five weeks additional compensation, or $125. If he can get employment at his former wages, and is able to work, he may be entitled to but four or five weeks disability compensation while the hand is healing. If unable to procure employment at his former occupation, and employment is accepted at a lower wage, he is entitled to only one-half the difference between the wages he received before the injury and what he is able to earn thereafter. After twenty-five weeks such an injured employee may be driven into a lower wageearning level, and be entitled only to a dollar or two as compensation for three hundred weeks, after which compensation will stop. This practically makes the injured employee a burden on the community after six years. Practically all States have more liberal provisions.
In Michigan, for the following specific losses, compensation is 50 per cent. of the average weekly wages, but not more than $10 nor less than $4 per week, for the following periods of time:
60 First finger,
35 Second finger,
30 Third finger,
20 Fourth finger, .
15 Great toe,
30 Other toes (each),
200 Arm, Foot,
Loss of the first phalange of a thumb, finger or toe is considered equal to the loss of one-half of such member, and loss of more than one phalange is considered equal to the loss of the entire member, with compensation accordingly.
Loss of both hands, or both arms, or both eyes, or any two thereof, constitutes total permanent disability, with compensation accordingly. (Part II., section 19.)
In Illinois, compensation is as follows:
Loss of, or permanent and complete loss of use of
Thumb, 50 per cent. weekly wages for 60 weeks, .
$720 420 360 240 180 360 120 1,800 2,400
Foot, 50 per cent. weekly wages for 125 weeks,
Loss of first phalange of thumb, or of any finger or toe, shall be considered equal to the loss of one-half of such member. Loss of more than one phalange shall be considered as the loss of the entire member, with compensation accordingly. The loss of both hands, or both arms, or both feet, or both legs, or both eyes, or any two thereof, constitutes total and permanent disability, with compensation accordingly. If any serious and permanent disfigurement to the hands, head or face, compensation shall be an amount to be fixed by agreement or arbitration, such amount not to exceed one-quarter of the ordinary death compensation. (Section 8.)
In Minnesota, compensation is based upon the extent of disability. Special schedule for following losses :
Maximum. Thumb, 60 weeks half wages,
$600 Index finger, 35 weeks half wages,
350 Second finger, 30 weeks half wages,
300 Third finger, 20 weeks half wages,
200 Fourth finger, 15 weeks half wages,
150 Great toe, 30 weeks half wages,
300 Other toes (each), 10 weeks half wages,
100 Hand, 150 weeks half wages, .
1,500 Arm, 200 weeks half wages,
2,000 Foot, 125 weeks half wages,
1,250 Leg, 175 weeks half wages,
1,750 Eye, 100 weeks half wages,
Loss of first phalange of a thumb, any finger or toe, shall be considered equal to loss of one-half of such member, and loss of more than one phalange shall be considered equal to loss of entire member, with compensation payable accordingly. (Sec
In the judgment of the Board, the most scientific method for computing partial disability is that in the California law. Where disability is temporary and partial, compensation is 65 per cent of the weekly loss in wages during the period of such disability, but the aggregate indemnity must not exceed three
times the average annual earnings of the employee, nor must the period extend beyond two hundred and forty weeks from the date of the accident. Where the disability is partial but permanent, the percentage of disability and the disability indemnity are computed and allowed as follows: For a 10 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. of average weekly earnings during forty weeks; for a 20 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. during eighty weeks; for a 30 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. during one hundred and twenty weeks; for a 40 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. during one hundred and sixty weeks; for a 50 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. during two hundred weeks; for a 60 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. during two hundred forty weeks; for a 70 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. during two hundred forty weeks, and thereafter 10 per cent. of such earnings during the remainder of life; for an 80 per cent. disability, 65 per cent during two hundred forty weeks, and thereafter 20 per cent. of such earnings during the remainder of life; for a 90 per cent. disability, 65 per cent. during two hundred forty weeks, and thereafter 30 per cent. of such earnings during the remainder of life. (Section 15.)
The Board is at work on the schedules as provided by section 15 of the California act, and worked out by the Industrial Accident Commission of that State, and hopes within a short time to present a similar schedule, to apply to the injured in Massachusetts industry, for the consideration of the Legislature.