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Massachusetts Worker's Death Highlights Family's Rights

Massachusetts residents depend on road crews to keep our state's highways safe for travel. However, this public benefit comes with a steep risk of injury or death for road crew workers. Hazardous working conditions and motor vehicle accidents are an unfortunate fact of life.

This notion was made real last August, when a highway construction worker fell to his death from an Interstate 91 overpass in Springfield. Authorities say the 46-year-old man fell through a gap in the median north of Exit 7. He plummeted nearly 60 feet before landing near a set of train tracks.

The man was a seasoned road construction worker. His employer has been the general contractor on at least 55 MassDOT road construction projects.

In the wake of the accident, the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit, the Hampden County District Attorney's office and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration joined together to investigate the worker's death. His employer was reported to have been cooperating fully. As of October 2012, the results of that investigation had not been made public.

Massachusetts Workers Compensation Death Benefits

Losing a loved one to a fatal work accident is one of the worst things that can happen to a family. As if the loss of companionship was not enough, families often find themselves struggling to make ends meet after their loved one's income goes away.

It is for this reason that workers' compensation provides death benefits to the spouses and dependents of workers who die as the result of injuries that occurred at work. Nearly all workers are covered by workers' compensation insurance, including undocumented immigrants and employees who are paid "under the table." Self-employed workers are covered if they have purchased their own workers' compensation insurance.

After a fatal work accident, families may be entitled to the following benefits:

  • Funeral and burial expenses up to $4,000
  • Weekly benefits up to two-thirds of the worker's average weekly wage, subject to a maximum benefit cap, for dependent spouses who have not remarried
  • Weekly benefits of $60 per week for each surviving dependent child, if the surviving spouse has remarried

Unfortunately, getting these benefits is not always as straightforward as it should be. In some cases, employers may contest whether the worker was actually an "employee" under the law, or they may argue that that the injury was not work-related. For this reason, it is important for the family of a deceased worker to talk with an experienced Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney soon after the death occurs. An attorney can help ensure that the family's rights are well protected.

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