What Happens if Someone Dies on the Job?
Any workplace accident that results in the death of a loved one is truly a tragedy. First, if you and your family are dealing with such a scenario, please accept our most sincere condolences.
After years of helping people with workers compensation benefits, we understand how difficult this is for you and your loved ones. We are here to help you through your time of need and answer any questions you may have.
Getting through an on-the-job accident or disease that is work-related can be tough. There is a lot to process. In addition to the emotional toll of an untimely passing, there can be serious economic consequences.Is the Death of an Employee Covered Under the NC Workman's Compensation Laws?
The Workers' Compensation Laws cover the death of an employee if:
- The accident Is related to a compensable disease or injury AND
- The fatality takes place during a specified time period.
In order to be properly compensated for the loss, it must be shown that the death of the employee is related to an occupational disease or injury by accident that would otherwise be covered by the NC Workers' Compensation Act.
It is important to understand that a work-related illness or on-the-job injury is not required to be the only cause of death.
Benefits under the Work Comp laws, related to death benefits, may be appropriate when the "covered" occupational disease or injury contributes significantly to the death of the employee.
That true even if there are other contributing factors to the untimely death of the employee.
Death Benefits may also be paid in appropriate circumstances if the disease or injury gets worse or aggravates a pre-existing condition that later results in the death of the employee.
For example, a heart attack that results in death may possibly be covered under Workers' Compensation in NC if the heart attack is caused by extreme conditions or unusual exertion. A heart attack may also be covered if an occupational disease or covered accident accelerates or contributes to the death caused by a heart attack.
There are certain presumptions associated with death benefits such as when an employee dies as a result of something that happens in the scope and course of employment. Plaintiff's lawyers may refer to that as "course and scope of employment." That presumption of coverage may even apply if it is not entirely certain what caused the injury or illness.What is a Final Determination of Disability?
Workers Comp benefits require the death (fatality) must take place within the latter of:
- Two years from the date of the "final determination of disability OR
- Six years from the date of an injury OR
- Six years from the onset of a disability related to a covered occupational disease
A "final determination of disability," generally speaking, is determined by the NCIC - North Carolina Industrial Commission.
It ordinarily addresses the injured worker's disability and may make a determination of the Work-Related Injury rating or a settlement agreement when an employee is injured on the job.
Workers compensation insurance does not allow for compensation if a workplace death is the result of suicide. Workers compensation claims may be denied if the employee intentionally tried to kill or injury themselves at work.
The can be an exception to that general rule when and if an employee becomes severely depressed and as a result loses their normal judgment. Each case is different. That's why it's important to consult with an experienced Work Comp lawyer to determine your legal rights.How Long Do I Have to Make a Claim for a Work Related Death?
The family of employee, their next of kind, or estate of the decedent should formally notify the employer within 30-days of the work-related death. That's true even if the employer already knows of the untimely passing related to an on-the-job accident or occupational disease.
Such "notice" should be handled by completing and filing a Form 18 "Notice of Accident" with the NC Industrial Commission. If it relates to lung disease, the Form 18B would be appropriate. A copy of the Form 18 (or Form 18B as may be appropriate) should also be sent to the employer.