Many occupations pose the risk of death or fatal injury while all workers may suffer unexpected and fatal work-related injuries. Fortunately, families who lose a loved one in a work-related accident may be entitled to compensation when this tragedy occurs.
Surviving family members of a worker who suffered a fatal work-related injury may file a fatality claim and obtain workers’ compensation benefits in New York. Claims must be filed within 2 years. Immigration status or the location of the workers’ family are not considered.
Family members may file a fatality claim when a worker suddenly dies because of a new incident. They may also file a claim for a worker who was receiving workers’ compensation benefits and dies from an existing, established incident.
Employers’ workers’ compensation insurers pay benefits when the claim is established. These benefits may be awarded back to the date the worker died.
Reimbursement of funeral or memorial costs are based upon their location and the actual charges. These benefits may be reimbursable up to $12,500 in New York City, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland Counties. Costs may be reimbursed up to $10,500 in other counties.
A tax-free indemnity benefit may be awarded. This benefit is calculated and based upon weekly earnings. To calculate this benefit, the workers’ average weekly wage over the previous 52 weeks is determined. The benefit is two-thirds of that amount up to the maximum benefit that was in effect when the worker died.
Indemnity benefits are usually awarded to surviving family members. They need to meet certain eligibility requirements, however.
A spouse who is married to the worker when the worker died is eligible for benefits for life. If that spouse remarries, the spouse benefit terminates with a lump-sum payment composed of 2 years of benefits.
Divorced spouses are ineligible. Children or dependents also share these benefits. The spouse is also entitled to the full benefit when the children become ineligible because of age.
Children up to 18 years old, or up to 23 if they are full-time students at an institute of higher education, may receive benefits. Children with a disability, blindness and other dependents are eligible for lifetime benefits. These survivors share the full benefit amount if the worker was unmarried. Benefits are shared with a surviving spouse, however.
The workers’ parents may receive a $50,000 payment if none of these survivors exist. Divorced parents will share this payment equally.
The deceased workers’ estate will receive $50,000 if there are no survivors. Estate executors need to complete the claim process.
Death claims do not provide medical benefits. But medical benefits may be paid from any separate medical claim for the work-related injury.
Claimants should be prepared to submit the following documents as part of their claim:
- Death certificate.
- Workers’ birth certificate.
- Marriage certificate.
- Any divorce decrees.
- Birth certificates of eligible children or dependents.
- Proof of enrollment at an educational institution for eligible children.
- Social Security award letter.
Certain forms must be filed as part of the claim process. New York’s Worker Compensation Board can supply these forms.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim may be complicated and claimants may inadvertently give up rights. Attorneys can assist claimants to pursue their right to compensation for work-related injuries.