When an employee suffers an injury on the job, the Workers’ Compensation system is designed to compensate that employee for lost wages and injury-related medical expenses. But what happens when a worker is fatally injured in a workplace accident or due to an occupational illness? Surviving family members member may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation death benefits.
What Are You Entitled To?
Workers who are injured on the job or suffer a work-related illness or disease are usually entitled to their lost wages – 66.66 percent of the average weekly wage they were receiving prior to the injury – along with compensation for all of their essential related medical expenses. When a worker dies because of their work-related injury or illness, those benefits may be passed on to their survivors.
Eligible dependents can expect to receive compensation for funeral expenses and a percentage of their loved one’s weekly wages for up to 500 weeks from the date of the injury. However, if the deceased employee was receiving Workers’ Compensation payments prior to their death, the duration of payments may change. There are other exceptions as well, and for this reason, navigating the Workers’ Compensation system can be difficult. An experienced attorney can help to guide you and advocate for your rights.
Who Are Eligible Dependents?
To receive death benefits for a loved one who passed away due to a work-related injury or illness, the recipient must have been a dependent of – or “wholly dependent” on – the employee while they were living. Those who are considered wholly dependent include:
- Minor child
- Adult child who is enrolled full time at an accredited educational institution, and who is younger than 23 years old
- Adult child who is mentally or physically incapable of self-support
In addition to the above, illegitimate children, stepchildren, and other dependents may also qualify for benefits if they can prove that they were wholly dependent on the deceased for more than three months prior to their loved one’s passing. Additionally, if the deceased does not have any loved ones who were wholly dependent on them, those who were partially dependent may qualify for benefits, depending on their share of dependence. And, if there are any unutilized or remaining benefits, under certain circumstances, those funds will be distributed to any non-dependent children, or to the employee’s parents, or other relatives.
What if a Death Benefit Claim is Denied?
There are a few legitimate reasons a Workers’ Compensation death benefit can be denied to survivors. These may include:
- The employee died in the course of committing a serious crime
- The employer denies that the employee’s injury occurred on the job
- The employer claims that the employee was an independent contractor
- The employee’s injuries were intentionally self-inflicted
If there are any doubts or questions about the denial of a claim, your Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help to determine if you are eligible to receive benefits and handle any necessary appeals. When necessary, surviving parties can sue in court for the benefits to which they are entitled.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell, Smith & Arden Will Fight for Your Rights
At Chappell, Smith & Arden, we are committed to fighting to uphold your rights and advocate for your loved one’s Workers’ Compensation benefits. Please call our Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at 803-929-3600 or 800-531-9780 for a free consultation or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located throughout South Carolina. We serve clients in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the counties of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.