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Who Can Receive Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?


A standard workers’ compensation settlement will provide an injured employee with coverage for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses. But when a work accident is fatal, the impact is greater than that of any other injury. The family of the deceased employee is left without their loved one, and can also suffer financially as a result.

The workers’ compensation system allows for “death benefits” in the event of a fatal work injury. Death benefits provide compensation to the people who are most severely affected by work-related deaths.

What are Death Benefits?

Death benefits are benefits provided through the workers’ compensation system that are meant to compensate a victim’s dependents for lost income in the event of a fatal occupational accident.

Death benefits are separate from the benefits that cover the cost of a funeral and burial of the deceased. Workers’ compensation insurance companies should cover these expenses as well, but death benefits are a different program that is intended to alleviate the financial stress of losing a provider in a work accident.

Who is Entitled to Death Benefits?

Death benefits are given to the people who are most significantly impacted financially by the passing of an employee. The people who are qualified to receive death benefits are generally classified as “total dependents” and “partial dependents.” Both of these types of dependents can receive death benefits, but are subject to different terms depending on their classification.

Total benefits usually include children, spouses, and other immediate family members who relied on the income of the deceased person. In California, children are automatically considered as total dependents if they are under the age of 18 or are unable to work due to a mental or physical disability. Spouses automatically qualify as a total dependent if they earned less than $30,000 in the year before their spouse passed away.

Death Benefits for Total and Partial Dependents

The amount of benefits that a dependent is eligible to receive will depend on their classification as either a total or partial dependent, and the number of other dependents who are eligible to receive benefits.

A single total dependent can receive $250,000 in death benefits. If there are two total dependents, they will split a benefit amount of $290,000. Three or more total dependents can receive $320,000, which will be split between all total dependents.

Partial dependents can only receive death benefits if there is only one total dependent, or no total dependents. Benefits for partial dependents are calculated by multiplying the amount of money the deceased person was providing to the dependent before their death. Without total dependents, partial dependents can receive an amount that is eight times the pre-death sum. With one total dependent, partial dependents can receive an amount that is four times the pre-death sum. The maximum amount of compensation for partial dependents is $250,000 if there are no total dependents or $290,000 if there is one total dependent. In most cases, death benefits are paid periodically rather than as a lump sum.

We offer our condolences if your family member was killed in a fatal work accident. Our lawyers can help you understand your rights after the passing of a loved one. For assistance with all workers’ compensation matters, contact Smolich and Smolich today.

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