Joyce Davis


Death Benefits


When an employee dies at work, there is a statutory presumption that his/her death was work-related. The insurance company then has the burden of  overcoming this presumption.


The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides for the payment of up to $4,000.00 for funeral expenses as well as ongoing benefits for the employee’s surviving spouse and children. For a spouse, such ongoing benefits are equal to 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly wage prior to his death (up to a maximum established by the state). After the first two years, the surviving spouse is also eligible to receive a cost of living increase. The surviving spouse can potentially receive ongoing weekly death benefits for life so long as he/she remains unmarried and can demonstrate that he/she is not fully self-supporting.


To be eligible to receive death benefits, the surviving spouse must show that he or she was wholly dependent upon the employee for financial support prior to his death. There is, however, an exception to this rule. If the widow or widower and the employee were living together at the time of death or if the widow was living apart from her husband for justifiable cause, the law presumes that the surviving spouse was financially dependent upon the employee. This presumption lasts for four years. After four years, the surviving spouse must show that he or she is not fully self-supporting in order to continue to receive benefits.  


If the surviving spouse remarries, his or her benefits will cease. The employee’s surviving minor children will then be eligible to receive $60.00 per week.