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DEATH BENEFITS – THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW (PART 1)

If an injury on the job clearly causes an employee to lose his life, all of us would expect that there is compensation payable to someone for his or her death (i.e. Death Benefits).  However, there are at least two (2) very important factors many people do not know.

First, all that is required in order for death benefits to be payable is that the industrial injury caused, hastened or contributed to the injured employee’s death.  What this means is that the industrial injury does not have to be the only cause of death or even the main or primary cause of death, and death benefits will be payable.

For example, if the employee was suffering from a condition that would have caused their death, even within a short period of time, but the evidence supported the fact that the industrial injury accelerated this process causing the death to occur earlier than it would have expected to occur, death benefits are payable.  If the cause of death is, for example, only 5% industrial and 95% non-industrial, death benefits are payable – and not only 5% of the death benefit, but a 100% of the death benefit is payable.  (Please note that these percentages can vary, the above is provided for the example only).

Secondly, death benefits are payable to “dependents” – that is individuals, often family members, who were dependent, either totally or partially, on the deceased employee at the time of the injury that ultimately resulted in his or her death.

Heirs of a deceased employee are not automatically paid death benefits.  There must be a demonstration of a dependency relationship, or a reliance on the employee for the necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing.  The amount of the benefit which is payable also varies whether the dependency is full or partial.  Additionally, in certain circumstances there can be a limit on the number of dependents. These unique rules regarding dependency will be discussed in my next blog.

Richard Irwin

Mr. Irwin is a recognized specialist in Workers’ Compensation law. He has been certified as a specialist by the State Bar of California since 1995. He limits his practice to handling only workers’ compensation cases. View Attorney Richard Irwin's Attorney Bio Here.

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