Most people probably think of workers' compensation as a method of covering medical expenses and lost wages for those who are injured at work. When the unthinkable happens, however, workers' comp coverage is also available to benefit the family members of a deceased worker. Who qualifies for these benefits depends on the relationships of the family members, so read to learn more about workers' comp death benefits, who is covered and what the survivors can expect.
Who Qualifies As Family Members?
In general, all family members who depended upon the deceased worker for financial reasons will qualify, including the spouse of the worker. It should be noted that the exact qualifying relationships can vary from state to state, since worker's comp is individually administered by each state. Usually, the following family members qualify for death benefits:
- The spouse, but in some instances the income of the spouse is taken into account in this determination.
- The children of the worker who are over the age of 18 and under the age of 25 if they are enrolled in college.
- The disabled child, no matter the age.
Under What Circumstances Do Death Benefits Apply?
Just as with the qualifications for regular workers' comp benefits, the rules for death benefits specify that the death must have been caused by a work-related injury, disease or condition. Preexisting medical conditions made worse by a work-related illness or injury also qualify.
What Can Eligible Family Members Expect?
Again, the rules for regular workers' comp benefits apply to death benefits, with the vast majority of states paying the family approximately one-third of the deceased worker's former salary. In addition to this amount, you can expect compensation for:
1. Burial expenses.
2. The remainder of any unpaid medical expenses.
It should be noted that the total amount of compensation will likely be divided up among all eligible family members and there may be limits on the gross payout amounts. You may expect that the payments be made either in a lump-sum fashion or divided up into monthly or weekly payments.
How Long Will Benefits Last?
The length of time family members can expect to receive compensation depends on their age, with most children losing benefit status at age 18 (or 25 for those enrolled in college). Spouses and disabled children often receive benefits for life.
The financial impact of losing a family member is sometimes overshadowed by the confusion and grief of loss of a loved one, but don't make the mistake of leaving valuable financial benefits on the table. Discuss your workers' comp benefit case with a workers' comp attorney (like those at The Reed Noble Law Firm PLLC).