Death Benefit Lawyer
Death Benefit Lawyer: Death Benefits in Workers’ Compensation
If you have lost a family member due to a work-related injury or disease, you may be entitled to receive death benefits through your state’s workers’ compensation system. This article will give you a general idea of who is eligible to receive benefits, how much you might receive, and for how long. However, since workers’ compensation laws are different in each state, the exact rules will be determined by the state where you file for death benefits. Therefore, it’s important to find an experienced death benefit lawyer to help you understand your state rules and file a claim so that you get every step of the process right.
Who Is Eligible for Death Benefits?
Losing a loved one because of a work-related injury or disease can be devastating to the family, and can cause a high emotional and financial burden, especially if the deceased was a breadwinner.
So, death benefits are intended to help compensate certain family members for the loss of financial support they received from the deceased employee.
While the exact eligibility requirements vary from state to state, death benefits are usually (but not always) reserved for those who were related to the deceased employee by blood or marriage—typically spouses, children, and other close relatives—who lived with and depended on the deceased employee for their living expenses.
In certain states, relatives who were only partially dependent on the deceased employee can get some benefits.
There are different rules for deciding who qualifies as a dependent, depending on their relationship to the deceased employee and state law. Children under 18 are almost always considered dependents.
The same goes for older children who have certain physical or mental disabilities that make them unable to earn a living. Several states also extend eligibility to children over 18 (up to 21 or 25) who’re enrolled in qualifying educational or vocational programs.
Many states assume that spouses are dependents regardless of their own incomes. In other states, spouses won’t necessarily qualify if they earn over a certain amount of money, or they may have to prove their financial dependence no matter how much they earn.
For all other family members, eligibility is usually determined based on the specific circumstances and evidence in each case.
Which Deaths Count for Benefits?
In order to receive death benefits, a work-related injury or illness must have caused or contributed to your loved one’s death. These benefits aren’t limited to situations where an employee dies on the job, such as in a serious workplace accident.
Injured workers may die months or years later—although a few states don’t allow benefits for deaths that happened too long after the original accident. Death benefits may also be available when employees eventually die from illnesses they developed as a result of working conditions, like exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Even if your loved one had other medical conditions unrelated to work, you still may be eligible for death benefits if the work injury or occupational disease contributed to or accelerated the death.
For example, you might be able to claim death benefits if a workplace accident aggravated your husband’s preexisting heart condition and led to his death. In that regard, you need an experienced and reputable death benefit lawyer to help you gather sufficient, relevant evidence to build a strong case.
How Much Can I Get in Death Benefits?
Death benefits are often paid in regular installments. The amount of those payments is based on a percentage of what the deceased employee used to earn before the injury. The percentage varies from state to state, but the typical weekly payment is two-thirds of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage, with maximum and minimum amounts.
Instead of installment payments, some states pay a one-time lump sum, usually representing two-thirds of the deceased employee’s wages for a certain period, such as two years. The lump sum is also generally subject to a minimum or maximum amount.
Even in states that pay installment benefits, you may be able to negotiate a lump-sum settlement of your death benefits.
In some states, the total amount of death benefits is the same regardless of the number of dependents. For example, the same total benefit amount may be divided among a surviving spouse and several dependent children. In other states, however, the benefit amount increases as the number of dependents increases.
If you are also receiving survivors’ benefits through Social Security, there may be an offset that reduces your workers’ compensation death benefits.
How Long Do Death Benefits Last?
When death benefits are paid in installments, there are limits on how long those payments continue. In many states, surviving spouses receive benefits until their own death or remarriage.
Children can typically receive death benefits until they turn 18, or in some cases until they complete certain types of post-secondary education or vocational training.
In other states, death benefits will stop after a certain number of weeks or a certain maximum dollar amount has been reached, regardless of the children’s age or the surviving spouse’s remarriage.
Other Benefits Available Through Workers’ Compensation
In all states, workers’ comp pays at least a portion of funeral expenses for employees who have died as a result of their work injuries. There is usually a maximum amount, which could be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than ten thousand dollars.
Workers’ compensation also covers the medical treatment that the deceased employee received before dying. In general, you should not be stuck paying the remaining medical bills. However, the deceased’s insurance company (or the state workers’ compensation agency) may review those bills to ensure that the treatment was necessary and related to the work injury or illness.
Having an experienced death benefit lawyer by your side to look out for your best interests can be essential as you pursue workers’ compensation death benefits following the death of your loved one.
Timeline for Filing a Death Benefits Claim
There are strict time limits for filing a claim for death benefits. In many states, the limit is one or two years from the date of death or the last payment of disability benefits. However, your state’s laws might have longer or shorter time limits. For that reason, it is best to make a claim as soon as possible.
What Should I Do If Death Benefits Claim Is Denied?
When you (i.e. a surviving family member) have been denied death benefits, the first thing that you should do is determine why your claim was denied. The answer will serve as a guide for which agency has to be contacted, or whether the decision can even be appealed. Thus, it may also be helpful to understand the appeals process and how to begin it.
Next, you and your attorney should gather any evidence that will support a reason for reversing the denial. This may include documents, such as death certificates, insurance policies, receipts for payments or contributions to different plans, and other various items that are connected to the specific claim.
While hiring an attorney is not a necessary step, it is strongly recommended. A lawyer can assist with any of the above processes and may be able to find other ways to have the decision overturned.
Finally, it’s important to remember to not only file the appeal but also to continuously follow up with the party that is responsible for making the final decision (i.e. to payout the death benefits).
Getting Legal Help With a Claim for Death Benefits
Since the workers’ compensation rules for death benefits are complicated and vary from state to state, you should consider finding a reliable attorney if you think you might qualify.
Death benefits can be an important financial resource for surviving dependents. But depending on your relationship with the deceased employee, you may need help proving that you relied on that person’s income or disability benefits to get by.
An experienced death benefit attorney can explain how your state’s laws apply to your situation, how to make a claim for death benefits, and how to protect your rights in the process. And it is good to know that because workers’ comp lawyers usually charge a contingency fee, and therefore, the lawyer generally will receive only a small percentage of the benefits you receive. Moreover, the lawyer won’t bill you if your claim isn’t successful.
Death Benefit Lawyer
If your loved one already had a worker’s comp attorney, that is a good place to start. Otherwise, feel free to contact Bobe & Snell Law Office LLC to find an experienced and reliable death benefit lawyer that you can trust to help you navigate the workers’ compensation process until you get the death benefits that you deserve.
Call us now at (470) 268-5802 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a FREE, No-Obligation Consultation or Case Review.