The death of a loved one can leave an entire family devastated. The loss is further complicated with the financial turmoil that follows.
The workers’ compensation system provides death benefits to the surviving dependents of the deceased worker in case the death is caused by a work-related injury. The surviving dependents can claim death benefits in the following circumstances:
- The death of a worker as the result of a work-related injury.
- The employee suffers a permanent partial or total disability due to a work-related injury that is compensable; however; he or she dies after some time due to a cause unrelated to the work injury sustained.
Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
Workers’ compensation death benefits differ with the circumstances. If an employee dies on the job, for example, the death is caused by a work-related accident, the survivors of the deceased (spouse and dependent children only) receive compensation in the form of weekly benefits from the employer or insurer. The compensation paid out for the first year after the fatal accident is equivalent to 66.66 percent of the employee’s weekly wage at the time of the accident. This amount is subject to a maximum limit set by state law. The employer or the insurer may also pay for the funeral expenses up to a maximum of $5,000.
When the death of an employee is unrelated to a work injury, the survivors are entitled only to the accrued benefits of the deceased employee. In most cases, it is a lump sum amount for the permanent partial or total disability sustained by the employee due to the work-related accident. Such a scenario would involve complicated legal issues, and it is advisable to hire a Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer for help in filing the compensation claim and negotiations with the employer’s insurance company.
Defining ‘Total Dependents’
The entitlement of death benefits is limited to the ‘total dependents’ of the deceased. Missouri state law defines total dependents as the surviving spouse and dependent children under the age of 18. The death benefits are shared equally between all the survivors. A surviving spouse is eligible to receive weekly benefits for his or her lifetime. In the event the surviving spouse remarries, a lump sum amount equivalent to two years of benefits is provided and then the compensation ceases.
Getting Help for Your Family
When an employee dies due to a work-related accident, the employer is required to report the incident to the Division of Workers’ Compensation within 30 days. The division will contact the surviving dependents and notify them about their rights and the compensation they will receive. However, there have been cases where the survivors have not been contacted by the division. In such cases, a workers’ compensation claim should be filed. It is, however, advisable that a Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer is consulted before filing the claim. Call The Law Office of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300.