Health Care

What Are the Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits Available for Surviving Family Members?

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Cardinal Law Partners September 4, 2020

In 2018, 5,147 employees lost their lives at work in the United States. In 2019, 5,250 workers died on the job. This increase of employment-based deaths is troublesome, leading many to wonder what the leading causes of fatalities are in the workplace. The subsequent question is then asked about the deceased’s survivors: are family members of the departed’s family entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits?

Transportation incidents account for approximately 40% of deaths in the workplace. Additional causes include the following:

  • Harmful chemical exposure
  • Being struck by equipment or objects
  • Slips, falls, and trips
  • Workplace violence

Occupations with High Fatality Rates

Some occupations are obviously more dangerous than others. Outdoor occupations tend to present the highest frequency counts and fatality rates. These are jobs where employees are not in a factory or an office. Such jobs may include:

  • Airplane pilots/flight engineers
  • Construction laborers
  • Farmers
  • Truck drivers
  • Roofers
  • Fishing workers
  • Loggers

While the aforementioned careers are some of the highest risk professions, other occupations still present risk of fatality and injury. Accidents happen all the time.

Surviving Family Members and Death Benefits

North Carolina workers’ compensation does provide death benefits to the families of workers killed on the job.  The Workers’ Compensation Act favors those family members closest to the injured worker and usually dependent on the deceased workers’ income.  This typically includes surviving spouses and surviving children. 

If an employee dies as the result of a workplace accident or occupational disease, then the employee’s family member may have a claim for death benefits.  Benefits last a minimum of 500 weeks and longer in some situations (such as a minor child who does not turn 18 until after 500 weeks).

Who Can Receive Death Benefits?

Workers’ compensation death benefits can only be received by certain family members. There are, however, certain unique situations in which the system acknowledges that others could be included. In most cases, the following are eligible to receive death benefits:

  • Dependent children 18 years old or more, if mentally or physically handicapped
  • Dependent children under 18 years of age
  • Spouse
  • Certain other relatives who were dependent on the deceased

In each case, dependency will be determined by a thorough examination according to the laws of the state. Death benefits can only, however, be obtained by a person who is a family member of the deceased worker.

Should you find yourself embroiled in a workers’ compensation death benefits situation, it is advised to seek legal advice from a qualified professional. The attorneys at Cardinal Law Partners can help you navigate all the rules and regulations, and/or represent your rights to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Hire an attorney for your protection and contact us today for a free consultation.