When a worker dies on the job, those who stand to lose the most are the workers’ surviving family members. Workers’ compensation death benefits are an important way family can obtain compensation for their loss, despite its limitations. As we noted last time, a surviving spouse and any minor children are entitled under the law to weekly cash benefits equal to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage in the year preceding the accident.
There is a ceiling on the benefits, though. Weekly compensation may not be greater than the so-called weekly maximum. This is a fixed amount based on the date of the accident and is updated annually. The current weekly maximum amount, for accidents which occur between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, is set at $864.32. That amount is split between all survivors.
Payments continue for different amounts of time depending on the classification of the survivor. For children, payments continue until the age of 18, or 23 if they attend college. Children with physical disability or blindness receive the payments for life. The spouse receives the payments until remarriage. If the spouse is remarried, he or she is entitled to a final payment amounting to two years of benefits.
First priority for payment of death benefits is for a surviving spouse and minor children, or dependent grandchildren. In the event that the worker has no such survivors, surviving parents may be entitled to as much as $50,000. Survivors may also be entitled to a fixed sum for funeral expenses as well.
While workers’ compensation benefits certainly cannot adequately compensate survivors for the loss of a loved one, they can at least help remove some of the financial burden the family faces as a result of that loss. Working with an experienced attorney in seeking out these benefits can help ensure that survivors receive the benefits to which they are entitled.