The primary purpose of workers’ compensation is to provide benefits to employees who sustain injuries while performing their jobs. But it can also be used to provide benefits to a worker’s family that are comparable to but distinct from those provided to the worker themselves if the worker passes away because of an illness or accident that occurred in the course of their employment. These types of benefits are referred to as “death benefits,” and they should be made available to the families of most workers who are covered by a typical workers’ compensation insurance plan.
In the state of California, members of the worker’s immediate family who are eligible to receive death benefits include the following:
- Children and stepchildren
- Parents and in-laws
- Aunts and uncles
- Nieces and nephews
This list of parties that are qualified to vote is quite exhaustive, particularly when compared to lists from other states. In many other states, eligibility is restricted to members of the applicant’s immediate family only.
However, under California law, the only people who are automatically eligible for workers’ compensation are the deceased worker’s minor children and their spouses in most cases. If other members of the same family, such as the deceased person’s parents or siblings, want to file a claim for the death benefits, they will need to provide evidence that they were dependent on the deceased person financially.
In California, death benefits are usually paid as a flat sum to the beneficiaries, including:
- $250,000 for one dependent or claimant.
- $290,000 to be evenly split between two dependents or claimants.
- $320,000 to be evenly split between three or more dependents or claimants.
Typically, the amount that is owed to a dependent will be paid back in monthly instalments that may continue for several years. However, according to California law, monthly payment must be at least $896, which is the same as $224 every week.
The recipient of death benefits should also be provided with financial coverage or reimbursement for “reasonable” burial and funeral costs. At this time, the maximum amount that a beneficiary can receive to assist in the payment of funeral and burial costs is $10,000. Because the insurance company has the right to request to see receipts to verify the reported costs associated with a burial or funeral, maintaining accurate books is essential.
Statute Of Limitations for Death Benefit Claims
After the passing of a loved one due to an illness or injury sustained on the job, dependents who are qualified to make a claim for death benefits have one year to do so. After 240 weeks have passed since the injury or illness was first suffered or diagnosed, the claim cannot be filed under any circumstances. For instance, if a worker sustains a life-threatening injury but manages to live for 10 years and 520 weeks before succumbing to complications, then it is possible that the family will not be eligible for death benefits.
Because the California workers’ compensation law handles claims for death benefits with fixed payment amounts, you may be tempted to believe that you do not need an attorney to assist with your claim. If the insurance company and employer do not complicate matters, this is sometimes the case. Nonetheless, people frequently require the services of an attorney just to make sense of the situation.
You may need to hire a death benefits attorney if:
- Your claim is being challenged, denied, or delayed.
- Your weekly payments are unreasonably low for your financial needs.
- You are not sure if the statute of limitations has expired for your case.
If your loved one passed away on the job, the experienced attorneys at Gaylord and Nantais can help. We will fight for your rights and ensure you receive the workers’ compensation you deserve. Call us at
(562) 561-2669 for a free case evaluation.