Workers' Compensation Death Benefits
When a worker is injured on the job in Boston, they are typically prohibited from filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. They must instead file a workers’ compensation claim. This system was introduced as a compromise between the needs of injured workers and the desire for business owners to be able to predict the cost of workplace injuries so that they can be included in their budgets.
The advantage to the injured worker is that there is no need to prove negligence in the case of an on-the-job injury. As opposed to a civil lawsuit, where an accident that was non-negligent is not actionable, workers’ compensation benefits are appropriate for any accident that occurred at work, even if it was not the employer’s fault. This will allow for financial recovery in more cases than in civil personal injury lawsuits, where a plaintiff must establish negligence.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) oversees the workers’ compensation system.What is Covered in Boston Workers’ Compensation Cases?
In workers’ compensation matters in Massachusetts, employees injured on the job can be compensated for hospital bills, lost wages, and the cost of future medical expenses related to the injury. Many of these costs are far greater than one might initially think.
An example would be an on-the-job injury that results in a below-the-knee amputation. A modern artificial leg costs more now than it did a few decades ago. A custom prosthetic limb costs, on average, more than $10,000 and typically only has a usable lifespan of three years. Every three years, they will have to spend over $10,000 on a new prosthetic leg for the rest of the workers' life. Under the workers’ compensation laws, the injured worker can use their workers’ compensation insurance to cover these costs as part of their workers’ compensation benefits.What Happens if a Worker is Killed on the Job in Boston?
We typically think of workers’ compensation as only covering workers injured on the job. What happens if a fatal workplace injury occurs? The team of Massachusetts attorneys at the Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers know when a worker is killed on the job, their dependent family members can file a claim for workers’ compensation death benefits.
Workers’ compensation death benefits in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will cover the hospital bills associated with the fatal accident, funeral expenses, and lost wages. In the case of a deadly on-the-job accident, lost wages can include the amount of money the worker would have earned during the remainder of their working life had the fatal injury not occurred. This allows family members dependent on the workers’ earnings during life to still have some financial security after their loved one’s passing.How Are Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits Awarded in Boston?
Workers’ compensation death benefits can be paid as a lump sum, one-time payment, or paid out each week. Workers’ compensation insurance carriers and employers worried about rising premiums may try to offer a family much less than the claim is worth. Having an attorney who regularly handles these cases on your side to fight for a full and appropriate workers’ compensation benefits award can make a big difference in what compensation the workers’ family receives.
It may be necessary for your attorney to consult with an economic expert or medical expert to show that the worker’s total lifetime earnings, had they not been killed in an on-the-job injury, would be significantly higher than the amount calculated by the employer or insurance company.
If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers' compensation claim: (617) 777-7777.
Boston Workers’ Compensation Attorneys - - Free ConsultationWorkers' Compensation Death Benefits
Losing a spouse or parent to an occupational injury or illness is a tragedy no one should endure. Often, it is compounded by the fact that the deceased was key to the household's financial stability and the loss of their income and other contributions is an incredibly challenging change to overcome.
Thankfully, MGL ch. 152 § 31 provides death benefits to surviving spouses and dependent children who lost a family member due to an occupational accident.
At Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers, our compassionate workers’ compensation attorneys will work to shore up your economic future. Every dollar counts when a loved one has passed, and obtaining the appropriate workers’ compensation can make a huge difference for surviving family members.
Death benefits cover:
- Up to 8 times the state average weekly wage for burial expenses
- Weekly benefits equaling two-thirds of the decedent’s average weekly wage
- $60 weekly to each eligible dependent child upon spouse’s remarriage
If a work-related injury or illness results in the death of a worker, the insurer is required to pay that employee's dependents. These dependents include:
- Children by a former spouse
This may seem straightforward, but it can be complicated when spouses are estranged, or when the insurer disputes the cause of a worker’s death or entitlement to benefits based on exemptions within workers’ compensation law.Worker Eligibility
One of the critical determinations of whether death benefits will be available is whether the worker in life would have been eligible to receive workers’ compensation. That requires showing the injury arose out of and occurred in the course of employment, and that the worker was not exempt from benefits.
Workers’ compensation covers almost all workers in Massachusetts, regardless of:
- How many hours they worked
- Whether the employer paid them cash “under the table”
- Whether they were U.S. citizens or not
- Whether they were illegal immigrants
The one commonly-cited exception is workers who are independent contractors. Independent contractors are not entitled to collect benefits, nor would their spouses or children in the event of their death.
However, it’s been estimated by the Department of Industrial Accidents that as many as 13 percent of all employers in Massachusetts misclassify at least some workers as independent contractors when they are, in fact, employees. So regardless of what the employer’s records indicate, it’s worth it to explore whether that label accurately describes the worker’s true role in the event of a worker's death.Other Requirements
State statute provides for workers’ compensation death benefits for surviving spouses for as long as they are:
- Not fully self-supporting
For the first 250 weeks (almost five years) after the worker’s death, the surviving spouse is automatically deemed “not fully self-supporting.” However, after that time, the insurance company can petition an administrative law judge with the Department of Industrial Accidents for termination of benefits on grounds the surviving spouse is now self-supporting.
The administrative law judge will make this determination based on:
- Spouse’s lifestyle
- Claimed expenses
- Reasonableness of expenses
- Income and income history
Some court cases have clarified the meaning of “fully self-supporting” in Massachusetts. Although there is no bright-line rule, the Department of Industrial Accidents held in the 1996 case of Marconi v. Crusader Paper Co. that widows and widowers accustomed to a higher standard of living should be allowed more chance to achieve higher earnings before being deprived of their benefits.
Further, in a 2006 case, the judges ruled that only earnings or investment income may be considered in the calculations – not benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance or pension from an employee benefit plan.What Are the Death Benefits?
In addition to payment for burial expenses, death benefits to spouses allow for two-thirds – or 66.67 percent – of the decedent’s average weekly wage, up to the weekly maximum rate set by the state at the time of worker’s death.
The maximum weekly rate is set annually on October 1. As of October 1, 2021, the maximum weekly rate was $1,694.24.
A worker’s average weekly wage is:
- Sum of total gross earnings
- Add in bonus pay or overtime
- For 52 weeks prior to the injury date
- Divide by 52 (or the number of weeks worked)
- Multiply the average weekly wage by 66.67%
If there is no surviving spouse, minor children and/or other dependents would equally share the compensation benefits.
Contact Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation.Call (617) 777-7777 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL