When an employee passes away because of their work-related injuries, their surviving dependents can receive what are known as “death benefits.” These benefits are available to the deceased worker’s spouse, children, or other dependents who relied on their financial support.
Both total and partial dependents of the deceased are entitled to receive death benefits. Total dependents are the people who were completely reliant on the worker’s for income. Partial dependents are the people who partly relied on the worker’s income. Specific family members of the deceased worker are automatically considered total dependents under the law. This includes:
- Children who are under the age of 18
- Children of any age who are physically or mentally disabled and are unable to earn a living
- A spouse who has earned $30,000 or less in the 12 months prior to the worker’s death
Other people can also qualify as dependents, but it depends on each individual’s situation. In general, the person has to have been a member of the deceased worker’s household or related to them by blood, marriage, or adoption. The person must also have relied on the deceased worker for financial support, either in full or in part. For example, an older parent can be a total dependent if they lived with the deceased worker and relied on their financial support for food, clothing, and other living expenses.
For qualified dependents, there are 2 types of available benefits:
- Burial Expenses: Workers' comp insurers must pay for reasonable burial expenses incurred by the deceased worker’s surviving family. For work-related deaths prior to January 1, 2013, the maximum amount was set at $5,000. As of January 1, 2013, the amount was raised to $10,000.
- Death Benefits: The amount of death benefits awarded is determined by the number of eligible dependents who can collect payment. For work-related deaths that happened on or after January 1, 2006, the award amount is 250,000 for 1 total dependent, $290,000 for 2 total dependents, and $320,000 for 3 or more total dependents.
Partial dependents can receive death benefits only if there are no total dependents or there is only one total dependent.
Do you have more questions about workers' comp and death benefits? Contact our team of Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys to set up a free case evaluation.