In addition to workers' compensation benefits for workers for their job-related injuries and illnesses, if such maladies ultimately result in death, certain survivors have the right to receive death benefits through their states' workers' compensation systems. If you are the family member or dependent of an employee who died from an injury or sickness incurred in the course of his or her employment, a knowledgeable workers' compensation attorney can advise you about workers' compensation death benefits.
In most states, the designation of appropriate beneficiaries of workers' compensation death benefits looks at two main relationships:
Death benefits are designed to provide monetary support for those people who will suffer most from the worker's death. Naturally, those dependent upon the worker for financial support will be negatively impacted by the death. Some states differentiate between those wholly and those partially dependent, with preference for naming the completely dependent people beneficiaries over those only partially dependent. In some states, partially dependent individuals receive reduced awards.
Type and Amount
Beneficiaries receive benefits to cover funeral and burial expenses capped at certain levels varying widely from state to state. The other component of the death benefit is a monetary amount compensating for lost wages that is usually a percentage of weekly wages.
For the right to death benefits to accrue, some states require that the work-related death occur within a particular length of time after the work injury, after the last treatment for the work injury or after some other occurrence. Some states require continuous disability from injury to death.
Pending Claims or Accrued Benefits
A living employee's workers' compensation benefits are considered separate and distinct from the death benefits generated later for beneficiaries. When accrued regular workers' compensation benefits are due a worker at the time of death, most states provide either that these accrued benefits pass through the estate of the deceased or to dependents. A death benefit award is a separate claim.
If you are the surviving spouse, child, relative, dependent or household member of someone who died from a work-related injury or disease, you may have a claim for workers' compensation death benefits. Do not delay in obtaining legal advice and filing an application; your state probably has time limits for applying. A skilled workers' compensation lawyer at our firm can answer your questions.