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Understanding Workers Compensation Death Benefits

Many of us are aware of the hazards in our workplace. Even for those who work in relatively low-risk environments, we all know injuries can and do happen. This is why workers’ compensation exists, to help workers who are injured while on the job. While most of us aren’t aware of the finer procedures and regulations surrounding the benefit, we are at least generally aware of its availability. What you may not know, however, is that workers’ compensation is not solely for helping injured workers. It may also provide benefits for survivors when a worker is killed on the job.

In the last few years, approximately 4500 workers died each year as a result of fatal occupational injuries. In recognition of this very real threat, workers’ compensation laws allow for benefits to be paid for certain surviving family members. While benefits may vary, often a funeral benefit is offered as well as a compensation amount equal to a portion of the worker’s salary. In Illinois, these benefits as currently listed in the workers’ compensation handbook are:

Burial benefit: $8,000

Salary benefit: two-thirds of the worker’s salary, calculated using his or her gross average weekly wage 52-weeks before their injury. Weekly benefits are paid for up to 25 years or to $500,000, whichever amount is more. Minimum and maximum weekly limits exist. Cost of living adjustments may apply.

Typically, family members eligible for these benefits include surviving spouses and dependent children. In Illinois, if such family members do not exist, any parents who were totally dependent on the worker may receive these benefits. If no such parental obligations existed, benefits may be paid to a person who was at least 50% dependent on the worker prior to his or her death. It is important to note that for surviving spouses, remarriage may affect benefits eligibility. If the spouse has eligible children at the time of remarriage, benefits will likely continue. If there are no such children, upon remarriage spousal benefits may be terminated after a “final lump sum payment equal to two years of compensation.”

Be aware that these benefits may also apply even if death does not immediately occur as a result of an occupational injury or disease. When such an injury or illness is found to be a precipitating factor to a worker’s death, even when their passing occurs days, weeks or years later, family members may still be eligible to receive workers’ compensation death benefits. However, there are usually time limits for filing, so be certain to check with your Illinois workers compensation attorney to ensure your benefits are received.

About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyers that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation attorney,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.

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