The death of a loved one can be heartbreaking for close family members left behind. When a worker dies from a fall at work, fire or explosion, car accident, exposure to toxic substances causing deadly illnesses, or workplace violence, the death can be even more tragic. In a sudden workplace accident causing an employee’s death, his family not only suffers with intense grief, but also with the financial hardship of losing the income they relied on for support. Fortunately, these loved ones may be entitled to death benefits under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws.
Who Can Receive Workers’ Comp Death Benefits?
Death benefits are available to family members when a worker dies as a direct result of a workplace accident. The worker does not have to die immediately for his family to qualify. To be entitled to benefits, the family must have been wholly or partially dependent on the deceased worker for financial support or basic necessities of life. How much the dependent will receive in death benefits will depend in part on whether he was totally or partially dependent on the deceased worker.
The law also distinguishes between primary and secondary beneficiaries. Primary beneficiaries are those who totally depended on the worker for the income they needed to live. Potential secondary beneficiaries are family members other than the spouse and children. Under Georgia law, certain family members are presumed to be primary beneficiaries. This means that they do not have to prove their dependency to obtain death benefits. These include the following:
Minor children under the age of 18 years old are presumed to be primary beneficiaries. In addition, children under the age of 22 who attend school full-time and those who are over 18 but mentally or physically unable to support themselves also fall within this rule. Step-children, legally adopted children, children born after the employee dies, and children born outside of a marriage can be presumed to be primary beneficiaries.
A spouse is presumed to be a dependent of the deceased worker as long as they were not separated for 90 days before the death.
Secondary beneficiaries can include parents, siblings, grandchildren, or even friends if they looked to the deceased worker for financial support. They would only be entitled to death benefits if there were no primary beneficiaries or the primary beneficiaries waived their right to benefits.
What Benefits Are Included in Workers’ Comp Death Benefits?
Dependents of a deceased worker are entitled to two types of benefits. They include the following:
Family members could be entitled to reimbursement for funeral expenses and costs up to a current limit of $7,500.
Workers’ compensation benefits for dependents are paid weekly like temporary total disability payments would be paid to the worker. The amount of the payment is based on two-thirds of the workers’ average weekly pay. However, there is a cap on the weekly amount of payments. The precise amount could depend on the year of the worker’s death.
Intentional act benefits.
If a worker died as a result of an employer’s intentional act that caused his injury, his dependents could be entitled to an additional $20,000 in benefits that would be paid as a 20 percent penalty in addition to the weekly payments.
How much an individual beneficiary will receive depends on how many other beneficiaries there are. In addition, there are caps on the number of weeks beneficiaries can receive benefits, with different rules potentially applying if the dependent is a spouse, child, or secondary beneficiary.
What Should You Do If Your Claim Is Denied?
If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you need to hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible who can help you appeal your denial and build your case so you obtain the benefits you are entitled to.
Have You Been Injured At Work?
If you've been injured on the job you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Augusta office directly at 706.863.6600 to schedule your free consultation.