Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits Explained

When your loved one has died due to a work-related injury, your family has a large void. Not only are you missing your family member’s support and guidance, but you are also without the income they provided. Your family may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation death benefits. An attorney can explain more about your family’s legal rights.

To qualify for Workers’ Compensation death benefits, your family must show that your loved one’s death was work-related. If an accident happened during work time, it may not be too difficult to prove. There are times when the insurance company may deny the claim. If your family member died from an illness, the insurance company could argue that the sickness was unrelated to their job. Alternatively, they may try to shift responsibility to another job and a different insurance company.

Death benefits are meant to care for dependents, whether a spouse or children. The amount and duration of the payments depend on whether someone is totally dependent and how long they will retain that status.

How the Death Benefit Works for Full or Partial Dependents

Full Dependents

If someone is totally dependent on the deceased person, they may be paid two-thirds of the average wage, either until they receive a total of $45,000, or for as long as they are dependent on the deceased person.

If a widow did not work and relied on the deceased person’s wages, they could receive the payments until they got their own job and began to earn a living on their own. Even then, they could continue to receive lost wages payments until they were paid a total of $45,000. However, payments may stop if the widowed spouse gets remarried, regardless of how much they have been paid.

Partial Dependents

If someone is partially dependent on the deceased person, they can receive benefits, as long as there is not already someone dependent who was being paid. The formula for determining partial dependent benefits is different. The insurance company may take the wages of the deceased person and the partial dependent and add them together. Then, they may take the wages of the deceased person and divide them by the total. Then, the insurance company may multiply that percentage by the maximum weekly benefit. There is a limit of $75,000 on total payments to a partial dependent. If there is more than one dependent, the benefits may be apportioned between them in a way deemed just and fair.

These payments for lost wages are subject to the usual cap of the average weekly wage in Maryland. This wage is continuously adjusted upward for inflation.

In addition to lost wages, your family may receive funeral and burial expenses. The cap on these expenses is $7,000 (which usually does not cover the full burial costs). This benefit may even be paid if there are no dependents.

Deaths for Unrelated Causes

Maryland Workers’ Compensation also recognizes deaths for unrelated causes, such as disability complications if the disabling condition resulted from the accident. If the employee’s death was due to reasons other than the accident, their dependents may claim a portion of death benefits, which differs financially based on whether the deceased was permanently totally or partially disabled.

How Are Death Benefits Calculated?

Deaths resulting from accidental injury or occupational disease may be compensable, meaning the deceased’s dependents may receive financial death benefits. The financial amount of benefits is determined by the total family income of the deceased’s average weekly wage. The benefits will be divided between the beneficiaries for up to 12 years, but exceptions may apply.

Some general guidelines:

  • Surviving dependent spouses receive benefits for a minimum of five years and a maximum of 12 years.
  • Dependent children may receive compensation up to their 18thbirthday or age 23 if they are a full-time student at an accredited post-secondary school.
  • Dependents who are neither spouse nor dependent child can receive up to the maximum amount of $65,000.
  • The death benefit amount cannot exceed the state’s average weekly wage (AWW) or two-thirds of the employee’s income.
  • A surviving spouse may collect death benefits up to two years after remarriage.

There is a maximum benefit limit for other dependents that are not a surviving spouse or child, and the state maximum limit is adjusted each year.

Filing Death Benefit Claims

Filing a Workers’ Compensation claim for death benefits is complex, given the requirements, evidentiary documentation, filing dates, and more. Working with an experienced lawyer to avoid complications during the process is in your best interests.

In Maryland, claims for death benefits must be filed within 18 months of the death for accidental injury or two years for occupational disease. It is best to file a death benefit claim as soon as possible if there are problems during the process. Filing a timely claim also means that you can receive benefits sooner.

Unfortunately, not all Workers’ Compensation death benefits claims are approved. However, some can be successfully appealed with the help of an experienced Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyer.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, P.A. Assist Families in Obtaining Death Benefits After a Work-Related Death

The loss of a family member is devastating in many ways. Our Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers may be able to relieve some of the financial burden that your loss has caused your family. Call LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, P.A., at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.