Fatal on-the-job injuries are a tragic reality for far too many families in Massachusetts. When this happens, workers’ compensation may be the most appropriate remedy, at least initially. Third party liability may still be explored, but workers’ compensation provides prompt, no-fault payment for medical bills, a portion of lost wages and funeral expenses.
According to a recent news story from Fox 5, a worker was killed when he fell into a collapsed cesspool. This 59-year-old victim was working a job in which was installing a new septic system, when the existing cesspool vault completely collapsed causing a massive hole in the ground.
Witnesses say that it appeared as if the man was swallowed by the earth in a split second. There was another worker who also fell into the newly formed massive crater, but he was able to climb out. There was no way to see victim, as he was covered in dirt and they knew he would not survive long due to the weight of the dirt and the possible lack of oxygen. First responders called in a special vacuum truck that is used to remove dirt in accidents such as this one, and a crane was used as well. They also cut trees to assist in the rescue effort. It took six hours of excavation to recover victim’s body, and he was pronounced dead following the recovery.
As our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, when a worker is killed on the job, as opposed to being injured, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accident (MASS DIA) refers to this as a death benefits case.
Pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act, the family of a deceased worker who was killed on the job may be entitled to up to $4,000 in burial expenses. However, the main part of the benefits award will be the lost wages component. A surviving spouse will often be eligible for two-thirds of a decedent’s Average Weekly Wage. There is a minimum amount for the benefit based upon the State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW), and the surviving spouse is generally entitled to these benefits until he or she remarries. If they remarry, then they would not be considered a dependent and would no longer be eligible to receive weekly survivor benefits.
However, under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, if the surviving spouse remarries, then any dependent children will receive survivorship benefits. The current amount for children’s survivorship benefits is $60 per week for each child, but despite the number of children, the total amount cannot exceed what the surviving spouse’s benefit was prior to remarrying.
In addition to the death benefits discussed above, the family of a deceased worker may also be entitled to the cost of any medical treatment associated with the terminal injury or illness. In some cases, the worker is killed on the scene, as happened in the case with worker who fell into the cesspool. In other cases, a worker will be taken to a local level-one trauma center following a serious on-the-job accident and may survive for several days or even longer. During this time, the family may incur a great deal of medical expenses. In these cases, the family must apply for workers’ compensation benefits to cover the costs of these paid or unpaid medical expenses.
If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Worker dies in cesspool collapse on Long Island, May 24, 2017, Fox 5 NY
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Report: Three Workers Burned in Natural Gas Explosion, Feb. 18, 2017, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog