When individuals lose a loved one to a work-related injury or illness, they may feel like they have nowhere to turn. What will they do without that person’s income? How will they pay off the medical debt and funeral expenses without depleting their savings? All of these are reasonable questions that the Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers of Kademenos, Wisehart & Hines Co., L.P.A. are here to answer.
We understand that honest, hardworking individuals are drastically affected both emotionally and financially by the loss of a spouse, parent, or child. Our certified workers’ compensation specialists Adrienne Hines and Victor Kademenos are here to help people get through the workers’ compensation claims process and obtain the death benefits to which they have a right.
For more information on workers’ compensation death benefits, contact us today at (419) 625-7770.
Ohio Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
Under Ohio Revised Code §4123.59, when an injury or disease resulting from work causes an employee’s death, death benefits are provided to the employee’s dependents. If there is at least one dependent person alive at the time of the worker’s death, then that individual is to receive sixty-six and two-thirds percent of the employee’s average weekly wage. There is also a complex formula for determining if this amount is within the minimum and maximum amounts allowed by law, so the amount a dependent receives may not be exactly two-thirds of their loved one’s weekly income.
If there is more than one dependent, then this weekly benefit is apportioned among the survivors. The case administrator has discretion in dividing the death benefits between the whole, partial, and prospective dependents.
Who May be Entitled to Death Benefits
Individuals who were dependent on the employee’s income while they were alive may be able to obtain death benefits. Under Ohio law, specific individuals are presumed to be wholly dependent on a deceased worker:
- A surviving spouse who lived with the employee at the time of their death
- A surviving spouse who was separated from the employee at the time of their death due to the aggression of the employee
- A child under the age of 18
- A child under 25 years of age, if in school full time at an accredited institution or program
- An adult child who is physically or mentally disabled and unable to work
Individuals can be deemed partially dependent and receive benefits if it is found they received financial support from the employee, such as help with rent, groceries, or medical bills, but did not entirely rely on the worker. A prospective dependent is an individual who was not wholly or partially dependent on the employee, but circumstances indicate they need financial support and there is evidence the employee intended to help.
In order to receive any death benefits, the individual must be a surviving spouse, lineal descendant, ancestor, brother, or sister. Whether or not someone is a dependent will be determined by the facts at the time of the injury that resulted in the worker’s death.
Death Benefits for a Surviving Spouse
When the dependent of a deceased employee is their surviving spouse, the weekly death benefit is paid to the spouse and continues until that individual passes away or remarries. When the spouse remarries, they will receive a lump sum equal to 2 years of the weekly benefit.
Death Benefits for Surviving Children
Minor and some adult children of a deceased worker are entitled to receive a portion of death benefits. The children’s death benefit continues until that dependent:
- Turns 18 years old
- Turns 25 years old, if they pursue an educational degree full time
- Is no longer incapacitated after being mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to earn an income
In most situations, the surviving children’s benefits are paid to the surviving spouse for the benefit of the spouse and the children. If a surviving dependent is an adult child with a disability, the benefit may be paid to a guardian for that child’s benefit.
Death Benefits for Partly Dependent Individuals
Workers can also have individuals who are not entirely dependent on them. In this case, a partly dependent person can receive sixty-six and two-thirds percent of the employee’s weekly wage within the minimum and maximum range, or their portion of it, for a period of time as determined by the case administrator.
Death Benefits for Natural Parents
A surviving natural parent or parents, who can be biological or adoptive, whom the employee was living with at the time of their death are entitled to a minimum award of $3,000.
Filing a Claim for Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
Any dependent of a worker may file a claim to receive death benefits within 2 years of the employee’s death. This application must the proper documentation and prove:
- The applicant is a dependent,
- The claim is made within the statute of limitations,
- The worker has passed away, and
- The worker’s death occurred within the course or arising out of their employment.
This process sounds simple, yet it can be difficult to navigate if an individual has no previous experience with workers’ compensation claims. Many survivors benefit from working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to minimize stress and get through this process as quickly as possible.
Recovering Funeral and Medical Expenses
In addition to receiving workers’ compensation death benefits, dependents can also apply to recover medical expenses from treating the employee’s work-related injury or condition and funeral expenses. Dependents can specifically request:
- Funeral expenses up to $5,500
- Exceptional transportation costs for if the worker died outside of the area in which they lived
- Medical, nurse, and hospital services
The individual who paid these expenses originally, which is most likely the worker’s spouse, should apply for this reimbursement. They will need to provide documentation like receipts to prove the amounts.