Do workers' comp benefits extend to the family of a deceased worker?

If a worker dies as the result of an injury or on-the-job exposure, death benefits are usually paid to dependents. This typically includes the surviving spouse and any minor children as well. Under certain circumstances, other dependent relatives of the deceased worker can also receive benefit payments. The amount of the dependency benefits is usually determined by the wages in effect at the time of the accident. There is at times a maximum cap on the amount of such benefits.

Beneficiaries of Workers Comp Death Benefits

Dependency benefits are usually paid to the dependents of the deceased worker. The laws of your particular state will determine the definition of “dependent” for workers comp purposes. Your state’s laws will also determine the rate at which dependency benefits may be received. However, as a general matter, a spouse and any children living with the decedent at the time of his or her death are in many jurisdictions presumed to be dependents. In cases where the marital relationship has been severed, the presumption of dependency can be altered. Some family members, such as a surviving spouse, may not be considered dependent if s/he was separated from the deceased worker at the time of death.

Spouse and Loss of Consortium

A spouse cannot generally recover for loss of consortium or services through workers' compensation. The reason is that if loss of consortium were available through the legal system, it would in part defeat the legal purpose of the workers compensation insurance system, which is to be the “exclusive remedy” for all such claims. The value of any loss of consortium, if it were held to be valid, would reduce the amount of workers compensation benefits required to be reimbursed by the employer.

Getting Help

If you are the spouse or dependent of a worker who has been injured on the job, or if you just have any further questions about family benefits in the workers compensation system, consider consulting with a qualified workers compensation attorney in your area. Many will provide free or reduced cost initial consultations.