Work-related fatalities are tragic misfortunes for any family. If a loved one has unexpectedly passed away as a result of a work injury, workers’ compensation benefits may be the last thing on the decedent’s family’s mind. However, you should know that there may be benefits available through Virginia workers’ compensation to help during this difficult period.

Virginia code § 65.2-512 provides compensation to the dependents of an employee killed and burial expenses. In the event of a work-related death, possible death benefits available include burial expenses up to $10,000.00; reasonable transportation expenses for the deceased up to $1,000.00; and up to 500 weeks of the deceased family member’s lost wages.

Total dependents, as defined by the law, are entitled to up to 500 weeks of lost wages. Total dependents include a spouse that lived with the decedent or had not voluntarily deserted the decedent at the time of the accident.  The spouse must have been dependent on the decedent.  Total decedents also include children under the age of 18, children under 23 if enrolled as a full-time student, and children physically or mentally incapacitated from earning a livelihood.

Partial dependents, as defined by the law, are entitled to up to 400 weeks of lost wages. A partial dependent is a parent in destitute circumstances. What constitutes “destitute circumstances” is determined by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. Partial dependents only get lost wages if there is no eligible total dependent survivor.

The number of dependents will affect how many weeks of lost wages each dependent receives. Total dependents divide the benefits equally. If there are only partial dependents, the wages are divided based on the dependency of each in the proportion of their dependency.

To calculate what lost wages a survivor receives, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission will start by calculating what the employee’s average weekly wage was. Survivors are then paid 66 and 2/3 percent of that each week. These benefits are intended to help the employee’s survivors during the difficult period following a loved one’s death as they take time to adapt to the change in their lives.

In order to obtain death benefits, survivors will have to prove that the death occurred as part of a compensable work injury. There are times when an employer will deny a claim for death benefits. Sometimes, an employer will deny a claim on the basis that the death resulted from the employee’s own negligence or misconduct. Other times, an employer will deny the accident on the basis that the death did not arise from the employment. It is best to contact our firm and have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney guide you through the process of getting death benefits.

There is a time limit, or statute of limitations, for which one can claim death benefits through Virginia workers’ compensation, so be sure to contact our firm to get all benefits that may be available to you.