Workers’ compensation covers more than just injuries. It also covers those occasions where a death occurs during a workplace activity or because of a workplace injury. If you have lost a loved one in work-related accident, illness, or injury, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Who Can Receive Benefits After a Work-Related Death in Massachusetts?
Virtually any dependent of the employee can receive workers’ compensation death benefits. Those who can receive benefits include:
- Spouse (as long as he or she remains unmarried)
- Children of the deceased who are under 18
- Children of the deceased who are over 18, but mentally or physically incapacitated
- Children of the deceased who are over 18 but are considered full time students and who are dependents for tax purposes
- Children of prior marriages who are considered dependents
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine who is considered a “dependent” for purposes of workers’ compensation death benefits. Whether the employee could have claimed the person as a dependent on their taxes is usually a good test, but it does not always quite fit with the workers’ compensation definition of dependent.
There are certain people who are presumed to be dependents under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law. These individuals include:
- A wife that was living with the employee at the time of death
- A wife that was living apart from the employee for justifiable cause or because he deserted her
- A husband who was living with the wife at the time of her death
- Children under 18 years of age who were living with the employee at the time of his or her death
- Children who are over 18 but living with the employee at the time of death because of mental or physical incapacitation
- Children who have been conceived but not yet born at the time of the employee’s death (payable at the time of their birth)
- Children who are under age 18 (or older and mentally or physically incapacitated), and who received legally ordered child support from the deceased employee
- A parent of a child under the age of 18 who was also living with the child at the time of the employee’s death
- A parent who depended on the employee’s support in whole or in part
Other individuals may also be permitted to receive death benefits if you can show that they were dependent on the employee’s wages or earnings. Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you make this showing so that you can receive benefits if you need them, even if you are not included on this list.
Amount of Death Benefits
Generally, the surviving spouse will receive benefits, even if there are dependent children involved. This is because the spouse is presumed to continue to care for the children, so he or she will use the benefits on the child’s behalf.
Benefits are two-thirds of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage. There are certain maximums, however, that the benefits cannot exceed. Specific minimums apply as well. These amounts are adjusted periodically, so they will vary depending on the timing of the accident. In Massachusetts, those receiving death benefits may also be able to request a cost of living adjustment increase after two years as well. Burial expense benefits may also be available.