Death Benefits and Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation laws and insurance provide that if a worker is injured on the job, he or she is probably entitled to some form of compensation. If the worst happens and the worker dies in a work-related incident, workers’ compensation benefits do not expire with the worker’s life. California law provides measures for the deceased worker’s family to collect workers’ compensation benefits if the worker is killed in a work-related incident. These are called “death benefits” and are available to certain individuals who may have been dependent on the deceased worker for financial care or support.

Not everyone  is eligible to receive death benefits. A person must demonstrate that he or she was fully or partially dependent on the deceased employee in order to receive death benefits. A person may receive benefits if he or she was fully or even just partially dependent on the deceased worker. Usually a person must have been part of the deceased employee’s household in order to be considered dependent, such as a child or a spouse. The person must also have relied on the deceased employee for financial support.  Some family members are considered under California law to automatically be fully dependent, including children under the age of 18, mentally disabled children of any age (if that child is unable to make their own living), or a spouse that earned less than $30,000 in the twelve months preceding the employee’s death.

A dependent may apply for two different types of workers’ compensation benefits. One of these is burial expenses. The workers’ compensation covers reasonable burial expenses, up to a maximum amount of $10,000. The other type of benefits, as mentioned above, are death benefits. The amounts are $250,000 for one dependent, $290,000 for two dependents, and $320,000 for three or more dependents. If there is more than one full dependent, typically partial dependents will not be eligible for death benefits. If that is the case, the partial dependent may apply to receive four times the annual amount that he or she received from the deceased worker.  Moreover, a child under the age of 18 will continue to receive monetary payments until he or she reaches the age of majority. If there is more than one child, these payments continue until the youngest child turns 18. The calculation of Death Benefits for multiple dependents can be complicated.

If your business is facing a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits, contact me today at (714) 516-8188. We will discuss the elements of the claim with you and your business’s potential obligation to the deceased’s dependents.

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