Unfortunately, fatal accidents remain too common at workplaces in Washington and throughout the United States. According to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), 77 workers were killed on the job in 2018, and 63 more were killed in workplace accidents in 2019. Fatal accidents were reported in different industries, including:
- Transportation and trucking;
- Agriculture & forestry;
- Fishing & hunting; and
The loss of a loved one through an on-the-job injury is a heartbreaking tragedy. While nothing can ever truly make things right, the surviving family members can make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. At The Walthew Law Firm, we want to make sure that you understand your rights and options. Here, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers provide an overview of the most important things you should know about getting benefits after a family member passes away.
Washington Law: Workers’ Comp Benefits Available for Dependents
In Washington State, companies must obtain no-fault workers’ compensation coverage. If a worker is hurt on the job, coverage is available for all claim-related, proper and necessary medical care, wage replacement, permanent impairment (PPD), and pension benefits. If an employee dies on the job, then workers’ comp death benefits are available for their dependents. Here is an explanation of who should file for these benefits:
- Surviving Spouse: Workers’ comp death benefits are meant primarily for the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse or registered domestic partner has the first option to file for workers’ comp benefits after a fatal accident, including burial expenses, unpaid time loss compensation, PPD, and/or pension benefits.
- Surviving Children: If there is no surviving spouse, children can receive benefits. Depending on the circumstances, children may be entitled to benefits until they are 18 or until they are 23 if they are in an accredited school full time. A disabled child may be entitled to life-long benefits.
- Other Dependents: If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, Washington workers’ comp death benefits may be available for other dependents.
An Overview of Workers’ Comp Death Benefits
If your loved one passed away on the job in Washington, you may have questions about what type of workers’ comp benefits are available. Under Washington law (RCW 51.32.050), you and your family may be entitled to the following three types of workers’ comp death benefit:
- Cash Payment: An immediate, one-time cash payment can be made to the surviving dependents if pension benefits are granted. This payment varies based on the date of injury but can be up to 100 percent of the average monthly wage for the state, or $5,360 in 2021.
- Funeral & Burial Expenses: If the worker’s death is directly related to the on-the-job injury, Washington state law provides the surviving family with a funeral & burial benefit “not to exceed two hundred percent of the average monthly wage in the state.” For reference, the current maximum funeral & burial workers’ comp benefit is just over $11,000.
- Survivor Benefits: Finally, survivor benefits may be available in the form of a widow/widower pension or child or dependent pension. It is a monthly pension paid to the surviving spouse, child, or another dependent. The amount will vary, but it is usually paid at 60 percent of the date-of-injury wages of the victim, up to the maximum amount allowed by Washington law.
If your family member received medical care for their job-related injury or illness prior to their death, that medical care should be covered by workers’ compensation. Your family should not be stuck with any out-of-pocket medical bills to pay for treatment that is related to a workplace injury.
How to Make a Claim for Workers’ Comp Death Benefits in Washington
Workers’ comp death benefit will not be paid out automatically to the surviving spouse, surviving children, or dependents after an accident. A claim for widow/child/dependent pension must be filed with L&I within one year of the date of the worker’s death. That claim will be reviewed and either accepted or denied by an L&I pension adjudicator. If the pension claim is denied, you should immediately contact a qualified L&I pension attorney.
As these types of claims are complicated, it is highly recommended that surviving family members consult with an experienced Washington State workers’ comp attorney. Your lawyer will ensure that your claim is completed properly with all supporting documentation so that you are in the best position to maximize benefits for yourself and your family.
Call Our Washington Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for Free Legal Guidance
At The Walthew Law Firm, we have the professional skills and legal experience to represent families who have lost a loved one in a workplace accident. If your loved one passed away on the job, we are available to provide advice and support. Contact us today for a free, confidential initial consultation. From our legal offices in Seattle and Everett, we represent families throughout Washington.