While 5,000 people die on the job every year, nearly 60,000 more die from workplace-related diseases. If you’ve had a loved one die while on the job, you want to know that their affairs will be taken care of. Death benefits that come from workers comp can help pay for services and help ease some of the frustration and struggle of the aftermath.
Accidents at work can happen through negligence, inaccurate information, or through acts of God. Regardless of what causes the accident, most employees are due to some reasonable level of remarried and recovery payments. Unfortunately for grieving family members, there are some hoops to jump through.
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a workplace death, make sure you’re eligible for death benefits. Here is everything you need to know.
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 will vary between states but are typically reserved for spouses, children, and close relatives.
Anyone who lived with the employee or was financially supported by them may be eligible. Some states will calculate the amount owed based on the level of dependency.
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.
Anyone else will have to provide evidence of how they were dependent on the deceased.
Know Which Types of Deaths Receive Benefits
To receive death benefits from workers comp, the death must be linked to an injury or illness that is undoubtedly 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, this is often considered an eligible case. There may be statutes of limitations should the death happen too many years on.
Another condition that is eligible for benefits is linked to work-related poisoning or illness that happens over a longer period. If an employee unknowingly worked with dangerous chemicals or materials, they could die from a slow poisoning. This makes them eligible for benefits.
If your loved one had any kind of medical issue that caused the death, and you can prove the condition was accelerated by work, you could clame benefits. Pre-existing conditions don’t disqualify you from receiving death benefits. A heart condition that was made worse by smoke or certain stressors could be a valid claim.
Payments Will Vary
Death benefits are usually given to the recipient in a regular installment. It’s based on a percentage of what the employee earned, usually around two-thirds. The percentage will vary depending on what state the accident happens in.
Some states will pay out a lump sum that will reflect that percentage for a few years, usually 2-3. There may be a limit, as in a maximum and minimum, to the payment you can receive. These benefits can be contested and negotiated by lawyers on behalf of the family.
They Don’t Last Forever
Some states will pay a spouse for the remainder of their life or until they get remarried, should they prove total dependency. For children, they can expect to get benefits until they’re 18 or after college.
Depending on which state you’re in, the death benefits could end earlier. They could be subject to a maximum amount. This means that if you get a higher payment per installment than is typical, you could see your benefits end in just a couple of years.
The courts or the state will determine a maximum. Remember that these can be negotiated.
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.