Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
The sudden loss of a loved one in a workplace accident is a jarring, horrific experience. If you were financially dependent on that person, you might feel overwhelmed by financial uncertainty as well as grief. Thankfully, many dependent family members are eligible for California workers’ compensation death benefits. Learn more about this important benefit program below.
What Are Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?
If your loved one dies in a workplace accident, you may be eligible for financial support as a result. Your eligibility depends on your relationship with the person who died as well as the amount of money and type of support the person who died gave to you.
In general, death benefits are:
- Provided to people who are “total” or “partial” dependents;
- Provided based on the relationship to the person who died and the amount of support that was received; and
- Requested appropriately within specified time periods.
Who Can Make a Claim for Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?
While some workplace deaths are immediate, others are a slow, difficult process. This is particularly true for victims of occupational diseases, such as mesothelioma or other forms of cancer and lung disease. It’s important to remember that workers’ compensation death benefits cover both types of occupational fatality.
Under California law, you might be eligible for workers’ compensation death benefits if you were a member of the deceased employee’s household or a close relative that was financially dependent on them. This includes the following:
- Children (biological, adopted and stepchildren)
- Parents and grandparents
- Sisters and brothers
- Aunts and uncles
- Nieces and nephews
While this list might seem expansive, not every family member automatically gets death benefits.
Children under the age of 18, disabled adult children, and surviving spouses who earn less than $30,0000 in annual income are automatically considered dependents. Everyone else has to prove that they were partially or totally dependent on the employee’s financial support.
If you need help assessing your eligibility for workers’ compensation death benefits, or the insurance company is denying your claim, contact the Law Office of Stephen Dewberry as soon as possible. We can help you understand your legal rights during this emotionally difficult time.
How Much Are California Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?
No amount of money can replace a loved one. However, after an unexpected death, you’ll face an overwhelming number of bills and concerns. Death benefits are aimed at helping you during this transition. The total death benefit amount will depend on how many dependents your loved one had. As of 2013, California’s death benefit schedule is as follows:
- One total dependent: $250,000
- Two total dependents: $290,000
- Three (or more) total dependents: $320,000
- One total and one or more partial dependents: $250,000, plus four times the partial dependent’s annual support (not to exceed $290,000)
- Partial dependents: Eight times the dependent’s annual support (not to exceed $250,000)
You’ll typically receive this amount in a series of weekly installment payments. Both minor and disabled children should continue to receive a weekly benefit even after the maximum death benefit is paid, until they no longer qualify.
You also should receive a $10,000 payment for your loved one’s burial and funeral expenses. If you have any concerns about a workers’ compensation death benefit award, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer can help you review the insurance company’s death benefit calculations and thereby ensure their accuracy.
Calculating Death Benefits
It can be difficult to calculate the total death benefits available in a claim. The total benefits depend on the number of total and partial dependents. Death benefit calculators are not typically accurate because they do not consider all of the variables involved. An attorney can help you calculate your total workers’ compensation death benefits to determine how much your claim is worth.
Workers’ Compensation Burial Expense Benefits
In addition to death benefits, you may qualify to collect burial expense benefits for your loved one as well. A workers’ comp insurance company is required to pay “reasonable” burial expenses incurred by a decreased person’s surviving family. If an injury occurred before January 1, 2013, the maximum burial benefit amount was $5,000. However, for injuries incurred after January 2013, burial benefit amounts may be reasonable up to $10,000.
Does My Loved One Have a Right to Other Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
In addition to your workers’ compensation death benefits claim, your deceased loved one might have their own claim for benefits. California workers’ compensation pays for the following:
- Reasonable and necessary medical bills associated with the work injury or illness
- Temporary disability benefits
- Permanent disability benefits
As an heir, you can claim these benefits on your loved one’s behalf.
How to File a Claim for Workers’ Comp Death Benefits
In order to obtain workers’ comp death benefits, you must submit an application to the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. This must be done within one year of the date of death of your loved one. The deadline is essential. If you miss it, your claim may be denied without further consideration.
The application includes information about the claimant, or applicant, and the person who died. You must submit:
- Your name, address, and contact information
- The deceased person’s name and their employer
- The name of the insurance carrier, if you know that information
- A statement about the deceased person and their work, earnings, and injuries. Compensation that was received by the deceased person is also a focus.
You may not have all of the information requested by the application for workers’ comp death benefits. However, if there is an active workers’ comp claim for the injury, then the California WC Appeals Board can pull information from that case. You should, however, be as complete as possible. If you fail to provide complete and accurate information, you may delay your claim to get benefits.
Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
After a fatal workplace accident, the insurance company and your loved one’s employer might seem very sympathetic. They might even offer a quick settlement of your claims. However, it’s important to remember that the insurance adjuster isn’t on your side — their job is to reduce the insurance company’s costs and maximize its profits.
Unlike the adjuster, a workers’ compensation attorney is your advocate and will fight on your behalf for fair compensation. At the Law Office of Stephen Dewberry, we pride ourselves on an exceptional client experience. We’ll listen to your concerns and provide emotional support, as well as help you understand your legal rights.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim is a complicated process with strict filing deadlines. A single mistake can reduce or eliminate your workers’ compensation death benefit and other awards. When you retain a workers’ compensation lawyer, you can focus on your emotional well-being and tend to your loved ones — we’ll handle the details of the claim.
However, you should act quickly. If you do not file your workers’ compensation death claim within the correct time period, you’ll automatically lose your right to benefits. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner they can subsequently get the process of filing a claim started.
Schedule a Consultation to Learn More About Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
If you need help understanding your entitlement to workers’ compensation death benefits, contact us today for a free, no-risk consultation. At the Law Office of Stephen Dewberry, our focus is workers’ compensation law. In every case, our goal is maximizing our clients’ recovery and ensuring their financial stability.