Due to precautions related to COVID-19, we have expanded our options for remote consultations. Please contact our office to discuss whether a full phone consultation or video conference is appropriate for your situation.

The benefits provided when a worker dies from a work-related injury

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Workers' Compensation

Each U.S. state has a workers’ compensation system in place, and Kentucky is no exception. All employers (with few exceptions) must have workers’ compensation insurance, which pays compensation to their employees when they suffer any work-related injuries or illnesses.

But what happens to that benefit when the worker dies from a work-related injury or illness?

By law, the deceased worker’s family members may receive a death benefit in their stead. A family member’s eligibility for this benefit depends on their relationship with the deceased worker and how much they financially rely on the latter.

Potential dependents

Under Kentucky’s workers’ comp rules, the following family members are assumed to be the main financial dependents of the employee upon their death:

  • Their surviving spouse
  • Children younger than 18 living with the spouse
  • Children younger than 22 enrolled in an accredited higher education program
  • Adult children who are mentally or physically unable to support themselves

The workers’ comp system gives priority to the deceased worker’s immediate family. If the worker didn’t have any family, other relatives may be identified as dependents if they can prove they depended on the worker. These include the worker’s parents, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.

Amount of benefits and length of payments

When a worker dies from a work-related injury or illness, their eligible beneficiaries can receive weekly death benefits up to 75% of the employee’s average weekly wages. The total amount can’t go over the average weekly wage across Kentucky. The state also caps death benefits at 500 weeks maximum.

In addition to the death benefit, the employer or insurer must also provide the surviving dependents a lump sum payment for burial and other related funeral expenses. The amount of this burial benefit is based on Kentucky’s average weekly wage.

If a worker dies due to an accident at work, workers’ compensation still triggers – but the benefits instead go to the late worker’s surviving family. However, this payment isn’t automatic, and employers and their insurers can still dismiss a claim for death benefits. Dependents worried about how they can secure benefits may want to work with a legal professional. An attorney may be able to guide them on how to start the claim process and fight to ensure their proper compensation.