Workplace Fatality: A Family’s Guide to Workers Compensation Death Benefits

Render illustration of Compensation Claim Title On Legal Documents

Everybody hates to talk about death. It’s something often spoken about in hushed tones and whispers.

However, the death of a loved one can change almost everything in a moment. It’s even worse when your relative dies because of a job they loved doing.

So what’s the best way forward in such a situation?

The deceased’s family need to file a worker’s compensation death benefits claim. Of course, no amount of financial compensation will make you feel better after such an event.

Insurance companies are in the business of making a profit, and they aren’t going to hold your hands and sympathize with you about the tragic loss. Appallingly, they’ll wait for you to file your claim and they might even end up serving you a stamped letter denying your claim for a reason or two.

Here is everything you need to know about workers compensation death benefits.

Does the Death of Your Loved One Count for Benefits?

For you to receive death benefits, your loved one must have died from work-related injury or sickness. Does this mean the benefit is limited to situations where workers die on the job? Or serious workplace accidents leading to death?

Injured or sick employees may die months or years after the original work-related accident or health complication.

In some situations, the death of your loved one may not be directly linked to workplace injury or sickness.

Can you still file death benefits in such a situation?

Yes, you might be eligible for benefits if a work-related accident or sickness aggravated your relative’s pre-existing condition and resulted in their death.

Are You Eligible for Death Benefits?

Death benefits are meant to keep the dependents of the deceased employee financially afloat for a given period. These people are mostly close relatives – related by blood or marriage to the deceased.

The law divides dependents into two categories: wholly dependent and partially dependent.

1. Wholly Dependent

In Georgia, the law says you are wholly dependent if you are:

  • Spouse to the deceased – it is assumed that spouses are wholly dependent irrespective of their personal incomes. You’re entitled to at least 50% of the maximum benefit.
  • A minor or a full-time student below the age of 23 years. If you are a student, you must be enrolled at an accredited educational institution.
  • An adult child who is physical or mentally incapable of supporting itself.

If you are a child of the deceased employee and you don’t fall into any of the above categories, then you don’t have any right to maximum benefits.

If there isn’t a surviving spouse, Georgia treats this case as if the deceased employee didn’t leave behind total dependents. This now introduces the aspect of partial dependents.

2. Partially Dependent

Partial dependents are only considered if there are no total dependents. To qualify, you must prove that you depended on the deceased for part of your support.

You must also justify the amount you’re asking the court to grant you.
This may involve a very complex calculation, taking into consideration the proportion of the employee’s income given to you every year.

How Are Death Benefits Disbursed?

Death benefits are usually paid in regular installments. The amount deceased used to earn before the injury or sickness determines every installment.
The amount varies from state to state.

In Georgia, the weekly payment is two-thirds of the amount that the deceased worker used to earn every week. The law stipulates the maximum and minimum amount plus the burial expenses.

The above is a general rule in Georgia. But there are variations to this rule. For instance, this rule doesn’t hold true if the worker received the employee’s compensation payment before their death.

If you are a dependent who is a U.S. citizen, the law refers to you as an alien. Aliens receive the same amount as citizens except that the law stipulates they must be total dependents. Hence, only the spouse and children receive death benefits.

Records must prove that the deceased worker supported them for a minimum period of 3 years before their injury or sickness.

How Long Do Death Benefits Last?

The law states that the spouse should receive death benefits for a maximum of 500 weeks from the date they lost their loved one. However, when the minor reaches 18 years, their benefits end.

For those under 23 years enrolled in school, their benefits end immediately they complete their course. Children who are mentally or physically incapable of self-support continue to receive death benefits for up to 500 weeks.

When to File a Death Benefits Claim

You must file a death benefits claim within two years from the date of the employee’s death. You must inform the employer of the worker’s death within 90 days. The employer will then provide you with paper to fill out.

What Happens If Your Claim Is Denied?

There are different reasons that can make your claim denied. One of them is if your loved one died while perpetrating a crime at the workplace.

The employer may argue out that the deceased person was an independent contractor and thus not covered by workers comp. The employer may also claim that the deceased’s injuries were self-inflicted.

If you lack proof that you were on duty on that specific day of injury, the employer might exploit this opportunity to say you were off duty on that day. Employers strive not to have poor claim history.

However, don’t consider initial denial as conclusive. You can appeal the initial denial if need be and take the matter to court. You are free to also appeal if you feel that you receive less than you deserve.

Consult a Lawyer About Workers Compensation Death Benefits

Since workers compensation death benefits rules are complicated and have variations, you should consider consulting an experienced workers comp attorney.

An experienced attorney will explain how Georgia’s laws apply to your loss, how to make a claim for your loved one and how to safeguard your rights.

For the bereaved, death benefits can be an important financial boost. If the deceased already had a workers comp attorney, that’s the best place to start.

You don’t have to deal with a tragic work-related loss alone, contact us today, and we’ll help.

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