Frequently Asked Legal Questions
Contact the Xifaras Law office in Mansfield, Massachusetts for a consultation about your personal or business legal matter. An initial consultation is free and confidential. At Xifaras Law we do what we can to help you feel comfortable and understand everything happening as you make your way through the sometimes confusing legal process.
What should I bring to my meeting with a lawyer?
You should bring with you any and all documents that pertain to or are relevant to you case. Things like police reports, names and contact information of witnesses, medical bills and records, and documents from your employer just to name a few. The more information you can provide to the attorney the easier it will be for both of you to piece things together and obtain the best outcome for you. However, if you don't have very much paperwork by the time of your first meeting with the attorney, don't worry. Your attorney will be able to retrieve what he or she needs as things move forward.
When should I contact an attorney?
When you believe you have committed a crime, or, if you're aware the police or another state agency is investigating you. An Attorney can communicate with the police on your behalf . The sooner you contact an attorney, the better. He or she may be able to help you avoid being arrested or at least arrange for you to surrender at a planned time and location.
If I'm innocent, why do I need an attorney?
Unfortunately, innocent people are accused, detained, arrested and jailed. Also, if you've been arrested in the past, it increases the likelihood that you'll be accused of another crime. However, regardless of your guilt or innocence, you always have the right to remain silent and say nothing. In fact, it is best to say as little as possible until such time that you have the guidance of an attorney who can learn of your circumstances and speak on your behalf.
What should I do if I get arrested or questioned by police?
You should be cooperative, respectful and polite. Always. Even if you've done nothing wrong, resisting arrest or struggling with the police will lead to more problems and in no way help your situation. Explain that you'd prefer to remain silent and you wish to contact a lawyer. As tempting as it may be to want to "clear your name" do not discuss the situation with the police. Many convictions arise out information gathered at the time of arrest. It is the police officer's job to attempt to get you to talk. Remember this and just wait patiently until a lawyer arrives.
What should I expect if I am arrested?
You will be brought to a police station and "booked." This means you'll be fingerprinted and photographed and the police will take your name, address and other biographical information. You will be allowed to make a call and you should call a lawyer or family member who can pay your bail and call a lawyer for you. To be released you will be required to pay a small fee (around $25) and sometimes the Commissioner will set a bail amount. Once the bail is received by the police , you should be released. You will receive a Recognizance Form from the police station and you will be required to appear at Court at the time and date on the form.
What is bail?
Bail is money, a payment or sometimes other property, that the Court holds until such time that you appear at Court. It is the Court's way of ensuring that the accused will appear. As long as you appear at Court at the specified time and date, you will receive your bail back – even if you are found guilty of your charge. If you do not show up for Court, whether you are guilty or not, you forfeit your bail and it will not be returned to you.
Do I have to supply my own bail money or can someone do it for me?
Anyone can post (pay) the bail for you. However, the person who posts the bail must be made aware that if you fail to show up at court, then the money will be forfeited.
Does bail have to be paid in cash or can it be a bond?
Only a licensed bail bondsman can "post a bond" or surety in lieu of someone paying cash. A bail bond or surety is a promise to pay the amount of the bail if you do not show up to Court at the appointed time. Bondsmen will charge you a fee to post the bond and are private businesses. They will require some kind of collateral to secure the bond. If you show up for court as required, the bond will be released and your collateral will be returned to you.
Do I have to do a field sobriety test if a police officer stops me while driving?
The police are well within their rights to ask you to take a field sobriety test if they have a suspicion of your operating under the influence (OUI). And it is your right to refuse to take a field sobriety test. It is important to know however, that if you do not perform the test, your refusal cannot be introduced at trial and you will not lose your license for refusing to take them.
If I am arrested, should I agree to take a Breathalyzer test?
In Massachusetts, when you obtain a driver's license, you are also consenting to take a Breathalyzer test should it be given to you by the police. It is with a Breathalyzer test, should you refuse to take it, that your license would be taken away from you – for a minimum of 90 days. With that said, breath test machines are not a perfect science and can be inaccurate. You should give careful thought as to whether or not you should take one because if you blow a .08 or more in the state of Massachusetts it can be extremely damaging to your case should it go to trial.
After I am injured on the job, how long does the insurance company have to start sending me my checks?
When you have been unable to earn full wages for five or more days due to an injury on the job, your employer has seven days, not including Sundays and legal holidays, to report the injury to its insurance company. The insurance company then has 14 days from receipt of the first report of injury to mail you a check or, if it intends to contest the claim, to send you a form stating its reasons for denying compensation. An employee claim form may be filed with the insurance company at any time, but the DIA cannot accept it until at least 30 days have passed since your first date of disability. You can obtain claim forms from this website, the public information counter at any D.I.A. office, or by calling (617) 727-4900 x470.
I don’t know the name of my employer’s workers compensation insurance company? What do I do?
Ask your employer- they are required by law to have a notice posted somewhere in the workplace, providing you with that information. Also, if you have been injured, and have been unable to earn full wages for five or more days, your employer must report your injury to their insurance company and to the DIA. They are required to give you a copy of this report, which contains the name and address of the insurer. If you have tried to get this information from your employer and failed, the Office of Insurance in Boston can assist you, 727-4900, x404 or 405.
The insurance company sent me a notice about having their doctor examine me. Do I have to go? Do they reimburse me for lost wages/travel expenses?
Yes, you have to submit to reasonable requests for examination by the insurance company's doctor. However, these examinations must be at 'reasonable' intervals for each particular injury claimed, and the insurer must reimburse you for reasonable travel expenses.
I was injured working out of state, but I was originally hired in Massachusetts – what state should I file a claim in?
The National Commission on State Workmen’s Compensation Laws has recommended that an employee be given the choice of filing a claim in the state where the injury occurred, or where the employment was localized, or where the employee was hired. In the majority of states, jurisdiction will be found if one of these alternatives is satisfied. 9 Larson, § 143.01 (2000). In Massachusetts, it is settled law that either the place of injury or the place of hire will confer jurisdiction.
My check is late OR the insurance company promised to pay but I haven’t received any money yet – what do I do?
How late is the check? Have you changed addresses lately? The insurance companies have high turnover rates with their claims adjustors, and sometimes checks that should be mailed out aren't. If you have been getting checks regularly and the most recent check is a week or more late, or it has been more than two weeks since the insurance company agreed to compensate you, call the Information Office in Boston, 727-4900, x470, or e-mail them at InfoDesk@dia.state.ma.us.
I collected workers comp benefits for months and then tried to go back to work. After a week I had to leave again due to my injury; I notified the insurance. Do they need to resume benefits?
Yes; under the worker' compensation law, §8 (2) (c), in cases where liability has been established, if you return to work for less than 28 days, and are forced to leave work again due to your injury, the insurer must resume payments to you. However, you are required to report your renewed disability to the insurer, in writing, within 21 days of going back out. The insurer must resume these payments within 14 days of receiving notice from you.
I came to an agreement for compensation with the insurance company OR the judge ordered them to pay me. How soon should I expect to receive payment?
Compensation must be paid within two weeks of knowledge from any source that payment is due. An exception is made for employees of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and for employees receiving benefits from the Workers' Compensation Trust Fund, whose checks may take a bit longer.
I was injured at my full time job and I am going to be out for several weeks. I also have a part time job and am able to continue working. How does this second job affect my benefits?
Under the Workers' Comp law, M.G.L. 152, § 11D, Insurers may recoup overpayments, but can reduce weekly checks by no more than 30 percent. If no future payments are due, the insurer may start an action in superior court.
How long do I have to file a claim after I am injured?
Under §41 of Chapter 152, for injuries on or after January 1, 1986, a claim must be filed within four years of the date an employee becomes aware of the causal connection between their disability and their employment. In the case of the death of an employee, the claim must be within four years of death. For injuries prior to 1/1/86, the statute of limitations is one year, regardless of the employee's knowledge of the causal connection, although it is the burden of the insurer to show prejudice by the employee's failure to file within one year of injury.
How does collecting social security affect my workers comp benefits?
Workers' Compensation insurance benefits are not affected by collecting Social Security benefits. More information on this is available from the Social Security Administration.
Can my employer stop my health insurance and other benefits while I am out of work due to an accident?
Apart from the anti-discrimination provisions of §75B, there are no explicit provisions under the Massachusetts Workers' Compensation law preventing employers from stopping all benefits while a worker is missing work due to a work-related accident. But, M.G.L. 175, §110D, states that in most cases coverage will continue for 31 days following a termination, and §110G requires most employers to offer continued coverage under the medical plan for additional 39 weeks (as long as the employee does not become eligible for another plan); the employee can be required to pay the entire (group rate) premium. Surviving spouses are also afforded the same coverage. Under applicable federal law (COBRA, Public Law 99-272), some employers are required to offer a continuation of whatever health plan the employee had prior to the termination or reduction in hours. This continuation period is usually 18 months; in some cases it is three years. During this continuation period an employer can charge the employee the group rate, plus two percent, for coverage. If you have any questions about what health care benefits, if any, your employer is required to offer you, contact your employer's Health Plan Administrator. If you can not afford the coverage offered by your employer, you should contact the Department of Medical Assistance, which may be able to offer some medical insurance benefits, or MassHealth, (617) 210-5000. Or visit the DMA Webpage. To get more information on the COBRA law, call (617) 565-9600.
How does SSA determine if you are eligible for benefits?
The Social Security Administration considers your age, education, past work experience and your medical condition. You must be able to show that you are disabled from all employment or that you expect to be disabled for 12 months or longer. You must also have paid into the Social Security system for a sufficient amount of time to be eligible for these benefits.
When should I apply for benefits?
You should file for benefits as soon as you realize that you are disabled. Be sure you provide accurate information about the date when your disability from work began. In addition, you will be required to give the Social Security Administration the names and addresses of all physicians and medical providers who have treated you.
What if my application is denied?
If your application is denied (and most are), you should promptly notify your attorney so that an appeal, called a Request for Reconsideration, can be filed in a timely manner. After the Request for Reconsideration is filed, the Social Security Administration will take a second look at your eligibility for disability benefits. At this time, additional evidence may be presented. If you are denied at this stage, your attorney can assist you in filing a Request for Hearing, which must be filed within 60 days of the notice of denial.
At the hearing, you will be required to appear and testify before an administrative law judge who will make a decision. If the decision is in your favor, you are entitled to monthly disability benefits according to Social Security rules and regulations. If you are receiving workers compensation or some other form of public disability benefits, your Social Security disability benefits may be affected.