6 Aug. 2018

Tragedy & Workers' Comp

Posted By Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith, P.C.

Tragedy can strike at the most unexpected moments, and we never know when a loved one might leave home for work and never return. We have all seen and heard tragic stories on the news: a crane accident, a kitchen explosion, a fatal car crash, etc. While work place injuries that result in someone’s death are incredibly traumatic to the family and friends of the decedent, they can also impacts coworkers who have lost a colleague. Although certain circumstances allow a coworker who witnesses the death of a fellow employee to be compensated, we explain if workers’ compensation benefits are available for surviving family members after the death of a loved one.

Workers’ Comp Law in Pennsylvania

Under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, surviving family members of an employee who was killed at work can receive benefits. Although these benefits are typically paid to a widow/widower and surviving minor children, the Act also provides potential benefits for surviving dependent parents or siblings.

How Soon Are Benefits Available?

Immediate family like the spouse and children of the deceased are first entitled to benefits. If there are no children, a spouse will receive 51% of the decedent's average weekly pay. These benefits will continue until the surviving spouse also dies or remarries. In some circumstances, insurance companies will attempt to establish that the surviving spouse has entered into a "meretricious relationship" and will seek to terminate benefits. If the surviving spouse’ living situation is similar to that of a marriage, the ongoing death benefits might be put in jeopardy. Additionally, if a surviving spouse decides to remarry, there is a provision in the Workers' Compensation Act to pay a "dower" to complete the payments of benefits, despite the new marriage.

If the widow/widower has children, the amount of benefits that can be awarded to surviving family members increases to 60% of the average weekly wage. The Act provides that surviving children receive benefits up to their 18th birthday. However, if they continue to be dependent and can establish that they are attending an accredited institution of higher learning, benefits can continue to be distributed until they turn 23.

When there is no surviving widow or widower, there may be a dependent child surviving the worker. In this situation, a sole surviving child will receive 32% of the deceased's average weekly wage. If the deceased has more children, that amount increases. When an injured worker dies and leaves behind dependent children, even those from outside a formal marriage, the Act provides benefits for the surviving children as well. Children born outside of a marriage can receive benefits if it can be established that they were dependent on the decedent for financial support. This even applies to dependent children who live in another country and who were supported by the worker's earnings from a job in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

If the deceased worker does not leave behind a spouse or children, other family members might be entitled to benefits as well. Survivor benefits can be paid to a father or mother of the deceased worker if it can be established that they were dependent on the employee at the time of their death. An example of this would be if the deceased employee provided financial support to their parents for expenses like rent, food, and utilities. Courts have determined that if surviving parents can prove they depended on financial support from the deceased worker in order to meet their ongoing living expenses, benefits can be awarded.

Talk to Our Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Lawyers

Have you lost a loved one in a work place accident? Our skilled lawyers our here to help you through this difficult time. We will guide you through your claim and ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected. Let us secure the compensation you are entitled to.

Call {F:P:Site:Phone} to set up your appointment today.

Categories: Workers' Compensation
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