On June 26, 2014, by signing into law a Massachusetts bill that increased the state’s minimum wage and provided unemployment insurance reforms, Governor Patrick also amended the Workers’ Compensation Act to increase the benefits to be paid to the survivors of workers killed on the job.
Under the most recent version of the law, survivors of deceased workers were entitled to benefits up to $4,000 for expenses relating to the burial of the employee. The new law now increases that maximum benefit to “eight times the average weekly wage” in Massachusetts – or $9,450. The change is an important one for families of those who lose loved ones in workplace accidents, helping to ease the financial burden of providing a proper burial.
Even so, this overdue legislation does not go far enough. No family dealing with the funeral expenses that result from a death caused by workplace injury should bear any of costs associated with a proper burial of a loved one. Instead of capping the benefit, the legislature should have provided that the reasonable and customary funeral expenses (including cremation, which is generally more expensive than burial) be covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer.
It should also be noted that the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides for expenses incurred to probate the estate of an employee whose death is caused by a work-related accident. The legislature did not make any changes to this section of the law.