Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits in California
The right to workers’ compensation death benefits is usually created by state law and details of the program vary among the states. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the law in your particular jurisdiction. This article will summarize the typical features of death benefits in most states.
Beneficiaries of Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
In most states, the designation of appropriate beneficiaries of workers’ compensation death benefits looks at two main relationships:
- Members of the deceased’s family or household
Death benefits are designed to provide monetary support for those people who will suffer most from the worker’s death. Naturally, those dependent upon the worker for financial support will be negatively impacted by the death. Some states differentiate between those wholly and those partially dependent, with preference for naming the completely dependent people beneficiaries over those only partially dependent. In some states, partially dependent individuals receive reduced awards.
Sometimes certain family members, such as spouses and children, are presumed to be dependent without having to provide proof. However, if there has been a severance of the marital relationship, such as a voluntary separation with financial independence, a surviving spouse may not be assumed dependent.
Many states look at family relationships or household makeup. For example, sometimes states prescribe lists of familial relationships eligible for death benefits. Where states look to household membership, unmarried cohabiting partners, in-laws, stepchildren or stepparents, or even unrelated persons may qualify for death benefits, so long as they were living in shared households with the deceased workers, especially where financial dependence was present.
Generally, states are liberal in determining who should be named a beneficiary, consistent with the benevolent nature of the benefit.
Type and Amount of Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
Beneficiaries receive benefits to cover funeral and burial expenses capped at certain levels varying widely from state to state. The other component of the death benefit is a monetary amount compensating for lost wages that is usually a percentage of weekly wages.
The length of time a beneficiary receives death benefits varies widely by jurisdiction. Depending on the state, a surviving spouse may receive benefits until his or her own death, for a set number of weeks, until remarriage or until another intimate relationship. A child usually receives death benefits until reaching the age of majority. Other types of dependents usually receive benefits for life or until they become financially independent.
Other Requirements of Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
For the right to death benefits to accrue, some states require that the work-related death occur within a particular length of time after the work injury, after the last treatment for the work injury or after some other occurrence. Some states require continuous disability from injury to death.
Finally, although the cause of death must be a job-related injury or disease, usually the cause of death does not have to be exclusively that injury or sickness, as long as it contributes significantly to the death.
Pending Claims or Accrued Benefits
A living employee’s workers’ compensation benefits are considered separate and distinct from the death benefits generated later for beneficiaries. When accrued regular workers’ compensation benefits are due a worker at the time of death, most states provide either that these accrued benefits pass through the estate of the deceased or to dependents. A death benefit award is a separate claim.
Free Consultation With a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you are the surviving spouse, child, relative, dependent or household member of someone who died from a work-related injury or disease, you may have a claim for workers’ compensation death benefits. Do not delay in obtaining legal advice and filing an application; your state probably has time limits for applying. A workers’ compensation lawyer at Law Office of Leslie S. Shaw, A.P.C. in San Diego, California, can answer your questions. Contact us online to request a free consultation.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.