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What Does Workers Comp Pay for Death?

Nearly 5,000 people die as a result of workplace accidents each year, and many of them were providers for their families. Losing a loved one is always difficult, but losing someone whose income you were depending on to make ends meet can make coping with a tragic death even more of a struggle.

Receiving financial compensation from workers’ comp can lift some of the burden off of you. The benefits surviving spouses or other qualifying dependents can receive include:

  • Weekly cash payments of a percentage of the deceased’s average take-home pay up to the state’s maximum limit
  • Compensation for medical expenses prior to death, up to the maximum limit (you’ll find on your state’s medical fee schedule)
  • $4,000 toward the burial fee (paid to the surviving spouse, dependents, or the individual who is financially responsible for the burial expenses)


If the deceased did not leave a spouse or qualifying dependent behind, financially independent survivors will not be eligible to receive cash payments.

Workers’ Comp Death Benefits Facts

This is a general overview of how workers’ compensation death benefits work. Keep in mind that the details may vary based upon your own situation.

Who Can Receive Death Benefits

If the deceased was married or in a registered domestic partnership, their spouse or partner will receive any workers’ compensation death benefits. To qualify for these benefits, they must have lived with the deceased when the injury occurred and they must have been the recipient of the deceased’s financial support.

Children under the age of 18 or disabled children over the age of 18 who are unable to work can also receive death benefits if they lived with their deceased parent at the time of the injury or depended on them for financial support. Children who are full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 21 may also be eligible for death benefits, with certain exceptions.

How Long Survivors Receive Benefits

When a surviving spouse or domestic partner of the deceased is the only dependent, they will receive death benefits until their own death or until they remarry. If that spouse or partner had children with the deceased, their benefits will be paid to the surviving parent.

How long a survivor of someone who is killed in a workplace accident can receive death benefits becomes more complicated if there are any children involved who were not the deceased’s child or weren’t living with the deceased. An example of this would be a child whose grandparents were their legal guardian. In cases like this, the benefits would go to the guardian.

If a parent remarries and their death benefits cease, their children will continue to receive benefits until they turn 18. An exception to this would be a teenager who gets married or drops out of school. Dependents must be unmarried and full-time students to qualify, unless they are disabled.

How to Apply for Workers’ Comp Death Benefits

If you believe you are a qualifying survivor of the deceased, you will need to file a workers compensation claim for death benefits. The time limit for filing a claim differs from state to state, and if you miss the deadline you won’t be able to get death benefits. You should apply as quickly as possible to make sure you don’t miss this window.

If the deceased’s employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier denies your claim, you may need the assistance of an attorney. A lawyer can explain your rights and help you prove that you were dependent on the deceased’s support.

No amount of death benefits will make up for the loss of your loved one’s love, companionship, and guidance, but these funds can certainly help you and any dependent children from being financially devastated.