The sudden loss of a loved one is never easy, but when it stems from a work-related injury or illness, the emotional burden can be compounded by complex legal questions. For surviving family members in Ohio, understanding workers comp death benefits is crucial for navigating this difficult time.
This blog delves into the key facts about death benefits and how a Columbus workers’ compensation lawyer can help you.
Eligibility for Workers Comp Death Benefits
For family members to qualify for Ohio workers comp death benefits, the deceased must have:
- Suffered a work-related injury or illness: This covers accidents, occupational diseases, and even aggravation of pre-existing conditions due to job duties.
- Been an employee covered by Ohio workers’ compensation: Independent contractors and certain public employees may not be covered.
- Left eligible surviving dependents: These include spouses, children, and certain other relatives who were financially reliant on the deceased.
Once eligibility is established, surviving dependents may be entitled to various benefits.
Survivor Death Benefits
Survivor benefits offer crucial financial support to eligible dependents. These benefits are paid every two weeks and are calculated based on Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.59.
Survivor benefits are generally equal to two-thirds of the deceased’s average weekly wage, capped at 66.67% of the state’s average weekly wage. However, a minimum benefit of 50% of the state average weekly wage applies regardless of the deceased’s actual wage.
How long survivor benefits last depends on the dependent’s specific circumstances.
The surviving spouse is entitled to benefits until remarriage or reaching retirement age (65 for men, 66 for women) under ORC 4123.59(A)(1). Benefits may continue past retirement if there are dependent children under 18 or disabled children of any age.
Children receive benefits until age 18, with the possibility of extension until age 22 if enrolled in full-time education, as outlined in ORC 4123.59(A)(2). Children with physical or mental disabilities may be eligible for benefits beyond age 22 under ORC 4123.59(A)(3).
Parents who were financially reliant on the deceased are eligible for benefits if no surviving spouse or children remain, as per ORC 4123.59(A)(4).
Certain siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren may be eligible if they were wholly dependent on the deceased, under ORC 4123.59(A)(5).
Additional Workers Comp Death Benefits
Beyond the core survivor death benefits, Ohio’s workers’ compensation system offers supplementary support.
When an employee dies due to a work-related injury or occupational disease, workers’ compensation may cover funeral and burial costs up to $5,500.
If a worker was owed disability benefits at the time of death, family members can receive the unpaid compensation.
Filing a Claim
The process of filing a claim for death benefits begins with surviving dependents notifying the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) of the death within 30 days.
Submit Your Death Benefit Claim
You can submit your death benefit claim to the BWS in several ways:
- Online: Submitting the “First Report of Injury, Occupational Disease, or Death” (FROI) form on the BWC website is a convenient and efficient option.
- Local BWC Customer Service Office: Visiting your local office in person allows you to discuss the death and have BWC staff assist you with completing the necessary paperwork. Alternatively surviving dependents can call the BWC to report the death over the phone.
Gathering Supporting Documentation
To facilitate the BWC’s investigation and expedite your claim’s processing, consider assembling the following documents:
- Death certificate: Certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate.
- Proof of relationship: Documents demonstrating your dependent relationship with the deceased, such as marriage license, birth certificate, or adoption papers.
- Proof of earnings: Documentation of the deceased’s average weekly wage, typically pay stubs or W-2 forms.
- Medical records: Any medical records pertaining to the deceased’s work-related injury or illness.
- Witness statements: If anyone witnessed the work-related accident or can provide information about the deceased’s work duties and condition, their statements can be helpful.
Legal Challenges and Appeals
If the BWC denies a claim, survivors have the right to appeal the decision. This involves filing a formal request for reconsideration, followed by potential appeals to the Industrial Commission and, ultimately, the Ohio Supreme Court.
An experienced attorney can guide survivors through these legal complexities and advocate for their rights.
Seeking Guidance and Support
Losing a loved one in a work-related accident is devastating. While nothing can take away your grief, workers comp death benefits can provide financial support in the wake of this tragedy.
Understanding the legalities of death benefits can be overwhelming. Our team at Ohio Workers Compensation Lawyers can help you during this difficult time. Contact us at 833-406-0060 for assistance.