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Death Benefits: What Happens If I Die at Work in California?


If you are someone who works in an occupation or industry that poses certain safety hazards, you may at more risk than other workers of losing your life at work. Many people who work such jobs take out life insurance policies if and when they can, but you might be wondering if there are other benefits your loved ones can collect.

You know that workers’ compensation exists to financially assist people who were injured at work, but is there a similar form of support for the loved ones of those who were killed at work? As it turns out, your family members who depended upon your financial support may be able to collect death benefits in such a tragic scenario.

What Are Death Benefits?

Death benefits are distributed through the California workers’ compensation system. Families must file claims, and once it’s determined that an employee’s death was work-related, benefits are paid out.

The amount of death benefits is fixed according to the number of dependents a worker had:

  • $250,000 for one dependent
  • $290,000 for two dependents
  • $320,000 for three or more dependents

Death benefits aren’t paid in lump sums. Typically, they are scheduled out as weekly installments in a manner similar to how temporary disability benefits are paid out.

Burial Expenses

In addition to death benefits, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company must pay your reasonable burial expenses. This means your loved ones are entitled to an additional amount of up to $10,000 for your burial.

Payments Continue for Minor Dependents

If a dependent who receives death benefits is still a minor when the maximum death benefit amount is reached, the minor will continue to receive installment payments – at the temporary disability rate – until they turn 18.

When Should Death Benefit Claims Be Filed?

Family members of someone who passed away at work have some time to file for death benefits, but they shouldn’t wait too long. If you pass away from a work-related illness or injury, your loved ones must file a claim within a year of your death and no more than 240 weeks after the accident that caused your death.

Contact Smolich and Smolich for Help!

Whether you are an employee concerned about what your job-related death could mean for your family or a loved one of someone who passed away because of a work-related accident, our team at Smolich and Smolich can help.

We can advise clients on matters involving the death benefits claim process and advocate for them to appeal denials that occur for any reason. If you need assistance from a legal team that cares about helping people get what they should rightfully receive, reach out to us today for assistance.

Contact Smolich and Smolich online to learn more about our services!