A common question clients ask, after the death of a spouse who was receiving Worker’s Compensation Benefits, is whether or not they are entitled to Workers Comp Survivor Benefits. There are certain eligibility requirements that must be met. The amount of benefits that may be received will also depend, in part, on the circumstances surrounding the spouse’s death. However, a Worker’s Compensation attorney can guide you through these issues and make sure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled.
Eligibility for survivor benefits
If your spouse died on the job, as the result of a workplace injury, the death must be reported to the Division of Workers’ Compensation, by the employer, within 30 days. At that point, the Division will provide information to the surviving dependents regarding their legal rights. If the employer fails to report the death within that time, it may be necessary to notify the Fraud and Noncompliance Unit, to determine how to proceed.
When can a surviving spouse be entitled to benefits?
When an employee, who has suffered a work injury covered by Workers’ Compensation, dies, certain individuals surviving that employee may be entitled to benefits. This is true in the following situations:
- When the employee dies as a result of the work-related injury
- When the employee is still employable after the work related injury, but suffers a compensable permanent partial disability at work and subsequently dies from a cause unrelated to the work injury
- When the employee suffers permanent total disability from a work related injury and then dies from a cause unrelated to the work injury.
What type of benefits are available?
The type of benefits that are available depend on whether or not the employee died while on the job. If the employee dies as a result of a work-related injury or accident, the surviving spouse and/or dependent children, are entitled to weekly benefits from the employer or its insurer. In Missouri, the weekly death benefit is usually 66 2/3 % of the employee’s average weekly wage for the year preceding the fatal injury. This is subject to any maximum amounts established by law. The employer is also responsible for paying up to $5,000 in funeral expenses. On the other hand, if the cause of your spouse’s death is unrelated to his workplace injury, then the survivors are only entitled to any accrued benefits to which the deceased employee was entitled.
As every state has its own Workers’ Compensation laws, there are some differences between states. In Arkansas, when an employee dies as a result of a work-related accident, his or her dependents may receive workers’ comp benefits, including a one-time funeral expense payment up to $6,000. A widowed spouse, with no dependent children, is usually entitled to 35% of the spouse’s average weekly wage until that spouse’s death or remarriage. If there are also dependent children, the benefit rises to either 50 percent of the worker’s average weekly wage, or to the maximum compensation rate, depending on the number of children.
Benefits for permanent total disability
In Missouri, the state Supreme Court decided in 2007 that, in some cases, the survivors of a deceased employee who was receiving benefits for a permanent total disability, could continue to receive those weekly payments, even after the employee’s death. However, the state legislature rejected the ruling and passed a bill the following year that said the payment of permanent total disability benefits of an injured employee terminates on the date of the injured employee’s death.
If you have questions regarding survivor benefits, or any other Workers’ Compensation concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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