Sadly, thousands of people die in work-related accidents each year in the U.S. When such fatalities occur, it’s not only the worker who suffers, but also their surviving dependents who rely on them to provide for the family. In addition, this tragedy throws the surviving family members’ financial security into question.
Car and truck accidents are the most common way workers die on the job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Around 40 percent of workplace deaths involve vehicle crashes.
Other common workplace fatalities include:
- Equipment accidents
- Falls, slips and trips
- Overdoses from non-medical drug use
- Violence and animal attacks
The most dangerous occupations include loggers, pilots, law enforcement and first responders, fishers, truck drivers, construction workers and roofers.
Who can receive death benefits?
In the event that someone dies on the job in Georgia, those who are dependent on the deceased could be eligible for death benefits. The first person eligible for benefits is the deceased’s surviving spouse, followed by their dependent children and/or stepchildren.
If the deceased had no spouse or children, then other family members could be eligible to receive the benefits, such as disabled parents or siblings. They will need to prove that they were dependent on the deceased for at least 3 months.
In the event that there is more than 1 person who could be a beneficiary, the death benefits will be divided evenly between the eligible parties.
What workers’ compensation death benefits are available?
When tragedy strikes on the job, the benefits that surviving dependents are eligible to receive in Georgia include:
- Funeral and burial costs. In Georgia, workers’ compensation benefits will provide up to $7,500 in funeral and burial costs to surviving dependents. This amount varies depending on where the worker was killed.
- Lost future income. Typically, surviving dependents are eligible to receive two-thirds of their deceased loved one’s income. If the death occurred after July 1, 2019, eligible dependents can receive a maximum of $675 per week.
- Medical expenses. For workers who are injured after an accident and require medical treatment before they pass away, employers are responsible for paying for these expenses.
How long are dependents eligible?
The length of time dependents can gather death benefits depends on the circumstances of the individuals involved. Spouses who don’t share any children can receive death benefits for up to 400 weeks (over 7 and a half years). These benefits do max out at a certain amount. If the spouse remarries, the benefits are cut off. Additionally, the benefits may be reduced if the dependent has any financial gains.
Dependent children can receive benefits until they turn 18—unless they’re a full-time student, in which case benefits will continue until they’re 22. If the surviving child(ren) is disabled, they will receive benefits as long as they are unable to support themselves, even through the rest of their lives.
In the event that a deceased worker has no dependents, employers are required to pay half of their benefit amount or $10,000–whichever is less—to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Workers’ compensation is a complex system with many moving parts—any one of which can delay your benefits or cause you to be denied altogether. That said, workers’ comp is a no-fault system; therefore, fault isn’t needed to be proven for surviving dependents to receive compensation.
If your loved one has been killed in a work accident, contact an experienced attorney in your area right away. They will work with you to make sure you receive the benefits you deserve.
Additional resources provided by the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ben Gerber
Georgia workers’ compensation attorney Ben Gerber, the co-founder of Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, exclusively represents injured workers in Atlanta, Athens and throughout the state. He uses his deep knowledge of employment law and extensive legal experience to help Georgia’s injured workers get the maximum compensation they’re owed under state laws.