Workers’ comp death benefits provide financial support to eligible family members if a loved one dies as a result of a job-related injury or illness. If you tragically lost a relative in a workplace accident, it is important to be aware of your rights.
A workers’ compensation lawyer at the Whitley Law Firm can help you make a claim for workers’ comp death benefits and guide you through each step of the process. Our attorneys serve workers and families in Raleigh, Kinston, New Bern, and throughout North Carolina.
Call the Whitley Law Firm at (919) 785-5000 today. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help.
What Workers’ Comp Death Benefits Are Available in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, eligible family members can recover two main types of workers’ comp death benefits: (i) wage replacement benefits and (ii) funeral expenses.
1. Wage Replacement Benefits
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act § 97-38 states that eligible family members can claim death benefits covering up to two-thirds of their loved one’s average weekly wage at the time of death. The minimum weekly death benefit is $30.00, while benefits are capped for high wage earners.
These benefits will continue for 500 weeks in most cases, but Section 97-38 provides that:
“… in case of a widow or widower who is unable to support herself or himself because of physical or mental disability as of the date of death of the employee, compensation payments shall continue during her or his lifetime or until remarriage.”
Additionally, death benefits paid to a minor child or the minor children of a deceased worker continue until at least their 18th birthday – even if this means the child or children receive more than 500 weeks worth of benefits.
2. Funeral Expenses
Under Section 97-38, eligible family members can receive up to $10,000 in additional workers’ comp death benefits to cover their loved one’s funeral expenses. This may include the cost of a casket, funeral services, burial or cremation, etc.
Who Can Claim Workers’ Comp Death Benefits?
In most cases, workers’ comp death benefits will be paid to the surviving spouse and the deceased worker’s minor children. If a deceased worker does not have children, then his or her spouse will receive 100 percent of the benefits paid. Likewise, if a deceased worker does not have a surviving spouse, then his or her children will split the benefits paid equally.
The deceased worker’s spouse and minor children are presumed to be “wholly dependent” under North Carolina law. However, certain other family members can qualify as “partially dependent” as well. If a deceased worker does not leave behind a spouse or children, then these partial dependents (if any) will share the benefits awarded.
How Long Do You Have to File for Workers’ Comp Death Benefits in North Carolina?
Workers’ comp death benefits are payable in North Carolina when an employee dies as a result of a compensable injury or illness within 6 years of diagnosis or within 2 years of a final disability determination, whichever is later. Following a loved one’s job-related death, it is important that his or her family consult with a lawyer about filing for benefits as soon as possible.
How Do You File for Workers’ Comp Death Benefits?
The process of filing for workers’ comp death benefits is similar to seeking benefits for a non-fatal injury. Most employers in North Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Benefits for a work-related injury or illness are provided through the employer’s insurance coverage.
It can be difficult to know what costs are incurred as a result of a loved one’s death and whether you and your family are being compensated fairly. We strongly recommend working with an experienced attorney to understand your rights and ensure that you are receiving the full workers’ comp death benefits you are due.
Read More: Should I Get a Lawyer for Workers’ Comp?
Third-Party Claims for Workplace Fatalities
Filing a claim for workers’ compensation is not the same as suing for personal injury. In fact, workers and their families are generally barred from suing an employer for a work-related injury, illness, or death.
However, some work fatalities may give rise to a third-party claim. If it can be shown that the negligence of one or more third parties led to your loved one’s death while on the job, you may be able to recover additional compensation through a wrongful death claim.
Are You Entitled to Workers’ Comp Death Benefits?
Losing a loved one is devastating no matter the circumstances. Although the workers’ compensation system provides benefits for surviving family members when an employee is killed on the job or succumbs to an occupational disease, it is often challenging for relatives to know what recourse they have.
At the Whitley Law Firm, we provide wholehearted care to individuals and families who have been injured or lost loved ones through no fault of their own. Our team can help you explore what benefits and additional compensation you may be entitled to and fight for a favorable outcome in your case.