What happens when a loved one dies as a result of a work accident?
The death of a loved one is devastating and life-changing. When a loved one is fatally injured as a result of a work-related accident or a disease or long-term illness caused by working conditions, it can be even more difficult. In addition to dealing with your grief, you are now grappling with mounting medical bills, funeral expenses, the loss of your loved one’s paycheck, and questions about the fatal accident that cost your loved one’s life.
Could their death have been prevented with better safety protocols or better training or protective equipment? Is their employer’s negligence to blame for the death of your family member?
If you have lost a loved one to a work accident or occupational illness, you may be eligible to claim death benefits to cover lost wages for the deceased worker as well as receive benefits to recover funeral expenses.
Eligible surviving family members of the deceased employee may receive death benefits based on a percentage of the deceased’s average weekly wage. Workers’ compensation death benefits may also pay for your loved one’s funeral expenses.
If you have questions about what compensation death benefits you might be eligible for, contact the expert workers’ compensation attorneys at Munley Law today. An experienced Reading workers comp attorney can explain to you what you qualify for, how to begin the claims process, and keep on top of filing deadlines and all communications with the decedent’s employer and the employer’s insurance carrier.
If you need to help understanding your rights and you have questions about whether you qualify for workers’ compensation death benefits, call a Reading workers’ compensation lawyer to schedule a free consultation.
What survivors are eligible for death benefits?
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act is the law that mandates workers’ compensation benefits including death benefits. They define who is eligible for death benefits as:
- A widow or widower
- Dependent parents of the deceased worker who are either partially dependent or fully dependent on the worker for financial support
- Children under 18 of the deceased worker
- A child under 23 of the decedent who is a full-time student at an accredited college or university
- A child of the deceased worker who is mentally incapacitated or physically disabled, regardless of age
- Dependent siblings of the deceased worker who is under 18 and who relied upon the decedent for financial support
- Dependent siblings of the decedent who are under 23 and enrolled full-time in an accredited college or university
- Domestic partners who were not married to the deceased worker are not eligible at this time to collect death benefits
What should you do when a loved one dies at work?
As with all workers’ compensation claims, the process to file a claim for death benefits can be complex. There are deadlines set by PA law that the family members and employer need to understand and follow.
After a fatal work accident, survivors must:
- Inform the employer of the death and your intent to file a claim as soon as possible, preferably in writing. The employer might already know of the worker’s death if the accident or death happened on company time and property but some work-related deaths occur later, in the hospital after medical treatment or as the result of an illness.
- You must file your claim for death benefits within three years of the date of the death. You have three years allowed by law but do not wait. Death benefit claims often rely on proof that the accident or death was work-related and you want to get witness statements, video evidence, and more as soon as you can after the death occurs.
If the fatal accident or death occurred at work, the employer must:
- Notify emergency services immediately. The employer is responsible to call emergency medical services immediately and notify the family of the worker as soon as possible.
- Report the death to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- Employers must report the death to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within 8 hours of the occurrence. OSHA investigates all deaths that occur in all workplaces under its jurisdiction.
- Report the death to the PA Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The deceased worker’s employer has 48 hours to report the fatality.
- Prepare the decedent’s final paycheck. The check should include all of the wages for hours worked, reimbursement for any unused paid time off hours including paid sick days and vacation days, and any commissions due or bonuses owed.
What workplace fatalities qualify for death benefits?
In addition to the procedures for surviving families and employers, PA workers’ compensation law requires conditions to be met for a claim to workers’ compensation death benefits can be paid.
- The fatal accident, disease, or illness must have been work-related. In order to be eligible to collect death benefits through a PA worker’s compensation claim, a work-related injury or illness must have caused or contributed to the death of your loved one.It is not necessary for your loved one’s death to have occurred physically at work, such as during a fall at work, or a workplace accident such as a catastrophic fire.
Even if your loved one died months after the incident, if the death is related to a work injury or occupational illness, you may still qualify to receive death benefits.
- The fatality must have occurred within 300 weeks of when the injury occurred. This is straightforward when your loved one dies as a result of a catastrophic workplace accident. It can be more difficult when a worker dies as a result of a long-term illness such as cancer-related to exposure to a toxic chemical or an illness such as black lung disease. An experienced workers comp attorney can help you prove your case for death benefits in these circumstances.
My loved one had a pre-existing condition aggravated by working conditions. Can I qualify for death benefits?
Even if your loved one had other medical conditions that were unrelated to their job duties, you still may be eligible for death benefits if the work injury or work-related disease contributed to or accelerated your loved one’s death.
What are the most common causes of workplace fatalities in Reading?
A fatal injury can happen in any workplace; however, some sectors do see more deadly workplace accidents than others.
In 2021, in Pennsylvania the top three most deadly industry groups for workers were
- Transportation and warehousing
- Construction and extraction
Some of the most common workplace accidents which cause death in Pennsylvania were:
- Being struck by an object
- Transportation accidents
- Exposure to harmful chemicals and substances
A workers’ compensation attorney can help
If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident in Reading, you may qualify to receive workers comp death benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help.
It is imperative that you follow all of the deadlines and guidelines set by PA state law in order to be eligible to qualify to receive death benefits.
If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident or occupational disease during the scope of their workplace duties in Reading, and you are not sure where to begin, call Munley Law Reading workers’ compensation attorneys today for a free consultation. Call, chat live, or message us 24 hours a day.
A member of our experienced workers comp death benefits team will be in touch shortly.
What death benefits will I receive?
Pennsylvania provides funeral benefits in the amount of $3,000.oo to the family of the deceased worker. Regular weekly death benefits or bi-weekly payments to survivors may also be paid based upon a percentage of your loved one’s wages at the time of their death.
A percentage of the decedent’s wages at the time of their death will be provided to the surviving spouse, if there is one. The actual percentage will depend on how many children the widowed spouse has custody of.
Children may receive death benefits even if there is no surviving spouse. Benefits would then be directly payable until the child reaches the age of 18. There are two exceptions to this rule:
- The child is mentally or physically incapacitated. If the dependent child is disabled, they are entitled to receive death benefits for as long as their disability lasts. If the disability is life-long, the death benefits will be permanent.
- The child is over 18 and enrolled in an accredited college or university. A child enrolled in an accredited institution will receive benefits until they graduate or until the age of 23.
Other family members
In the event the worker does not have a surviving spouse or children, wage loss death benefits may be paid to dependent parents or siblings as long as they lived with the deceased worker and they relied on them partially or fully for financial support.
What are the most common reasons death benefit claims are denied?
There can be many reasons the workers’ comp insurance company may refuse to pay benefits to the family of a deceased worker including:
- The insurer claims the fatality was not work-related
- The insurer or employer claims that the deceased worker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident
- The worker intentionally tried to harm themselves. It is important to note that if an employee has committed suicide as a result of a work-related mental illness, the surviving dependents may still be eligible to collect PA death benefits.
- The deadlines to file a claim have passed. It has been longer than 300 weeks since the worker died from their work-related illness or injury.
How much will my Reading death benefit attorney cost?
Your workers’ compensation attorney at Munley Law will not cost you anything until you receive the maximum death benefits you are entitled to by law.
Contact us today for your free consultation.
We are Pennsylvania’s most experienced workers’ compensation attorneys with more than 60 years of experience fighting for PA workers. Let us help. Call Munley Law today.