According to Virginia.gov, death benefits can be awarded to :
“A surviving spouse, children under 18, children under 23 enrolled full time in an accredited education institution, parents in destitute circumstances or other qualifying dependents may be entitled to wage loss benefits.
Death benefits include funeral expenses not to exceed $10,000 and transportation cost of $1,000”
If an employee dies as a result of his job, his dependents may be entitled to funeral expenses and two-thirds of his average weekly wage up to 500 weeks. If there are multiple dependents, such as a wife and children, the weekly benefit is divided equally. If a widower or widow remarries, then his/her benefits are terminated. When a child turns 18, his or her benefits are terminated. Before these events occur, it may be best to talk to an attorney to discuss settlement options.
Death benefits in the Virginia workers’ compensation system can be a fickle thing. My heart goes out to anyone who has had to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Like work injuries, work-related deaths must be the result of a specific, identifiable event or, possibly, the result of an occupational disease.
Death benefits can provide for step-children of a worker who was killed on the job but they don’t provide for unborn children. So, if Jim is killed in a work accident and his wife, Jane, is 9 months pregnant with their child (we will call the unborn child “John”), Jane may be entitled to survivorship benefits but John is not! John is not entitled to survivorship benefits because he was not “alive” and considered as a “dependent” at the time of Jim’s death! Please understand, I certainly do not agree with this way of denying benefits but this is the way the law is written in Virginia.
The Death Benefits Process
It’s best to contact Richmond workers compensation attorneys as soon after the death of your family member as possible. That way you can begin to receive the benefits for which you’re eligible as soon as possible. Like any other legal process, the issuing of benefits can take some time. There’s also a statute of limitations to consider when pursuing this type of claim.
There are two different kinds of benefits: the type that’s paid to dependent family members and the type that’s meant for partially dependent family. Those who were dependent on the income of the deceased (who live off the deceased’s income without an alternate source of support) are eligible to receive two-thirds of their late family member’s income. If there is more than one dependent, they may have to divide the benefits between them. The duration of benefits in this situation is 500 weeks, which adds up to over 9 years.
Those partially dependent on the deceased worker’s income are also eligible to receive part of the deceased’s income, but the amount depends on how the family split the household expenses. It’s calculated by starting with two-thirds of the deceased’s income as a starting base and is adjusted down according to the extent to which the survivor was dependent on the income of the deceased. For example, if the beneficiary is the wife of the deceased, and she depended on her late husband for half the household income, she would be eligible to one-third of the decedent’s income.
Your Rights to Death Benefits
Generally, an employer must pay death benefits to qualifying family members of the deceased worker when a death occurs at work. Sometimes, an employer may deny a claim for one reason or another. One common reason given is that the employee died because of his or her own negligence on the job; that safety rules were not followed. The employer may make it seem as though the burden of proof is on you when in reality it’s on them to prove that your loved one was negligent.
Time Limits on Death Benefits
Obviously, this is just one situation and every scenario is different. If someone in your family has lost their life due to a work-related injury, you need to speak to an experienced attorney right away. There are time limits on your eligibility to file for death benefits so call my office at (877) 755-7744 and find out how to protect those benefits. Workers’ compensation death benefits will never make up for the loss you have suffered but, hopefully, the workers’ compensation insurance assistance will at least help to ease some of the burden that families face in the presence of such a loss.
Common Causes of On-the-Job Deaths
- electrical injuries;
- respiratory distress due to airborne irritants; and
- various injuries resulting from poorly maintained or malfunctioning machinery.
In many cases, these deaths happen through no fault of the victim. These deaths often occur because of unsafe workplace conditions, unforeseeable weather conditions, irresponsible behavior on the part of co-workers or poor employee training.
Whatever the reason for the accident, the surviving family will have to face the future in the best way they can and address the changes that have taken place in their lives. After the tragic death of a family member, a family suffers not only emotionally but also financially. The death of someone who contributed to the support of the household can leave the dependent loved ones unable to pay the bills and facing the extra expenses of medical and funeral costs.
Death benefits help the family of the deceased live from day to day in the wake of the loss. There are specific rules that govern workers’ compensation for benefits after a loved one’s death, and they vary by state. That is why it’s important for you to educate yourself about how these benefits work in the state of Virginia and to contact a lawyer with experience in workers’ compensation cases.
Workplace Violence Resulting in Death Benefits
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million U.S. workers were victims of workplace violence. Police officers and other criminal justice workers face these risks everyday as part of their careers. Patients or clients under the influence of drugs or suffering from mental illness sometimes attack nurses, home health workers and social workers.
Being physically attacked at work is a physically and psychologically traumatic experience that can lead to post-traumatic stress, physical disabilities and other major career-impacting problems for the victim. In some instances, the violent attack may end in death for the victim.
If you or someone in your family has been seriously injured or killed in an incident of workplace violence, you may be entitled to wrongful death benefits through workers’ compensation. An attorney will help you understand your rights and will lead you through the filing process.
If you are dealing with the loss of a family member due to a work injury or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (877) 755-7744.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.