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Attorney Explains Family Death Benefits in Massachusetts

Providing Legal Assistance in Burlington, MA

Massachusetts has a workers’ compensation system that gives workers insurance protection when they are injured, develop a work-related illness, or are killed in a workplace accident in Boston or elsewhere in the state. The program is administered by the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) in Massachusetts.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s most recent annual report in 2015, there were 4,836 occupational injuries that were fatal nationwide. Roughly 25% of these occurrences were within the occupational segment of trade, transportation, and utilities, while the construction-related segment was the second leading cause, accounting for approximately 19% of fatalities.

Survivors of the deceased worker are generally eligible for benefits in the event of a work-related fatality.

Who’s Eligible for Death Benefits?

Those generally entitled to survivor death benefits are called dependents. These are the employee’s family members or next of kin who were in some manner dependent on the income of that employee when the fatality occurred. Those individuals may include the following:

  • The spouse (husband or wife) of the deceased who lived with the employee, or a wife not living with the deceased for a permissible cause or due to desertion.
  • Minor children (under 18 years old) or children over the age of 18 with a physical or mental impairment who resided with the deceased.
  • Children of the deceased who had been conceived yet unborn at the time of death.
  • Minor children who did not reside with the deceased but were receiving court-ordered support.
  • The parent(s) of an unmarried deceased worker, if they lived with the deceased.

Amount of Death Benefits in Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Claim

The surviving spouse of the deceased may receive two-thirds of the average weekly wages of the worker, up to a limit based on the state averages, which are calculated by the office of unemployment.

A surviving spouse will always receive no less than $110 per week. Annual adjustments to the payment amount for costs of living will begin after the first two years of receiving benefits. These payments continue until a spouse remarries, where the payments are adjusted to $60 per week for each dependent child, not to exceed the total amount the spouse had received prior to remarriage.

If there is no surviving spouse at the time of the death, the payments are divided equally between all dependent children. Payments to children cease when they reach 18 years of age, except for children who are physically or mentally impaired. The costs associated with the funeral are paid up to a limit equal to eight times the deceased’s average weekly wage.

Accidents Involving Third Parties

Workers’ compensation law generally bars injured workers from bringing lawsuits against their employers. This immunity is afforded only to the employer; however, it does not extend to third parties.

For example, the injured worker is an employee of an electrical subcontractor on a construction project and is injured because the carpentry subcontractor. In this scenario, the law allows for a party to bring a "third-party" action (claim).

Another example would be if the worker was injured by a tool, piece of machinery, or equipment that was determined to be defective. In this instance, the worker may bring a third-party claim for damages based on product liability. Third-party liability matters are subject to approval by the courts or the DIA, and workers are strongly advised to pursue such claims with assistance from an attorney.

How a Lawyer Can Help a Massachusetts Workers’ Comp Case

Many workers’ compensation claims are relatively simplistic; however, they can become increasingly complex. The DIA strongly recommends that injured workers or their families consult with legal counsel. Many industrial or construction-site accidents may require critical analysis and review to prove. There may be medical concerns, negotiations, Social Security-related benefits, and other issues that are best suited for an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

It is important that those involved in occupational accidents have their rights protected according to the law. The workers’ compensation lawyers at DiBella Law Offices, P.C., serve as advocates for justice on behalf of Massachusetts’ injury victims. You may have time limitations associated with the claims in your case; therefore, contact our Burlington office today at (781) 262-3338 for a consultation.

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