First, please accept our most sincere condolences on your loss. If you have questions about legal claims for damages as a result of a workplace fatality, please call now. The last thing you need to worry about is legal fees, so we don’t charge anything to talk to you and provide general guidance during your time of loss. Our NC Workers’ Compensation Law Firm is here to help and answer your questions. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide entitled: Death Benefits from Workers Comp: Everything You Need to Know
By Kevin Jones, NC Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist
More 5,000 people die on the job every year. That’s truly a shocking number. What’s more disturbing is the fact that nearly 60,000 more die from workplace-related diseases.
If you’ve recently lost a loved one due to a workplace accident, timely information about legal rights and protections are key. Personal affairs should be handled in an appropriate, timely manner. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides certain protections, and benefits, in the event of a workplace death.
There may be death benefits in certain workers comp claims in North Carolina. Work Comp may, in certain circumstances, pay for funeral services, helping to ease some of the financial aspects of an unexpected loss of a loved one. My job as lawyer is these cases is to do my best to ease some of the legal worries associated with death benefits – Kevin Jones, Workmens Compensation Lawyer NC
Accidents at work can happen through negligence, inaccurate information, or through Acts of God. Regardless of what causes the accident, many employees (and potentially their legal beneficiaries in an untimely death) are entitled to reasonable money damages for lost wages, reimbursement of medical bills and the costs of surgical intervention, treatment, transport to the ER Emergency Room, (ambulance / Life Flight), etc.
Unfortunately for grieving family members, there are some necessary “first steps” to preserve your legal claims. That may include providing clear legal notice of the loss, making a formal claim for death benefits, and otherwise preserving legal claims under the NC workers compensation laws.
It is also extremely important to begin gathering evidence of the accident, including records of the injury, witness statements, and other documentation that might be used in a hearing on the claim.
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a workplace death, here’s what you Need to Know and What To Do After a Workplace Fatality in North Carolins:
Check Your Eligibility
Since your family member will no longer be able to contribute to your household income, death benefits are intended to help bridge that gap. Eligibility is normally reserved for spouses, children, and “legal beneficiaries.”
There are some standard rules for dependency, like having children under 18 or children who have a disability that inhibits their ability to earn income. If children are attending college or a trade school, they might also be eligible for benefits since they may have relied on income or tuition money.
Spouses are usually considered dependents regardless of how much they earn. Sometimes there is a cap if the living spouse is a higher earner than the deceased spouse. Financial dependence, in this case, will need to be proven.
Know Which Types of Deaths Receive Benefits
To receive death benefits from NC workers comp, the death must be linked to an injury or illness that is work-related.
The death doesn’t have to occur on the job. If an injury on the job causes months of hospitalization that leads to death, it may be an eligible case. There may be statutes of limitations that apply.
Benefits linked to work-related poisoning or illness that happens over a longer period, are more complicated. If an employee worked with dangerous chemicals or materials, passing away from a slow poisoning. Pre-existing conditions do not necessarily disqualify death benefits.
Payments Will Vary
Death benefits are normally paid on a percentage of what the employee earned on the job where injured or killed.
Workers Comp Offers Other Benefits
Every state requires workers comp to pay some portion of the funeral expense of employees who’ve died because of work-related injuries. There could be a maximum amount, but the funds should greatly ease the costs that families face.
Death benefits will also cover the medical treatment that your lost family member received. The insurance company may review the bills and scrutinize them. If this is the case, it’s time to seek the help of a qualified lawyer.
Insurance companies may claim that certain treatments weren’t necessary or expenses aren’t covered. The last thing you should do is haggle on the phone with an insensitive and disrespectful insurance company. Let your attorney handle that.
It’s Time To Consult A Lawyer
Everyone has a complicated family, unique issues, and conditions that make their case special. When combined with the strict rules of the law surrounding workers comp death benefits, you could fall through the cracks.
If this is the case, it’s time to call a lawyer.
They know the laws and what kinds of evidence you’ll need to prove your relationship with the deceased. They’ll also know what kinds of paperwork you’ll need from the hospital, from the employer, and from the insurance company.
The number one reason people hesitate to hire a lawyer is that they don’t know if they can afford one. Many lawyers will charge a contingency fee so that they only get paid when you get paid.
You Deserve The Peace Of Mind Offered By Death Benefits
If you’re dealing with the kinds of family and social changes that a death can bring, the last thing that you need is to worry about money. The emotional pain, the transitions, and the responsibilities you’ve inherited are more than enough to deal with. Hire a lawyer if things get too messy trying to get death benefits.
If you’re in a battle with the employer about blame for an accident, check out our guide to understand who should be held responsible.