Death Benefits And Workers Comp
In 2014, 71 fatal work-related accidents occurred in the state of Mississippi. Thirty of those fatal accidents were transportation-related, four were from fires or explosions, eleven were the result of a fall, slip or trip, nine were the result of exposure to a harmful or toxic substances and another nine fatalities occurred as the result of contact with an object or piece of equipment. The remaining eight work-related fatalities were tied to violence or other injuries inflicted by another person (workplace violence).
When a workplace injury results in death, the dependents of the decedent may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. Death benefits under Mississippi workers’ compensation law are subject to a maximum 450 week limitation. Workers’ compensation death benefits can be complex, however in general they fall into the following categories:
- Reasonable funeral expenses with a maximum of $2,000, are paid on behalf of the decedent;
- The surviving spouse will receive a lump-sum amount of $250.00 immediately;
- Qualifying children (with no surviving spouse) will receive weekly benefits in the amount of a maximum of 66 2/3rds of the decedent’s average weekly salary—25 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage, not to exceed 66 2/3rds of the average weekly wage regardless of the number of children;
- The surviving spouse is entitled to a weekly benefit of 35 percent of the decedent’s average weekly salary for a maximum of 450 weeks or until the surviving spouse remarries or dies;
- In the case of a surviving spouse and dependent children, the spouse is entitled to 35 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage, and each child will receive 10 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage, again, not to exceed 66 2/3rds of the total average weekly wage of the decedent;
- Should the surviving spouse remarry, the minor children will receive benefits equal to 15 percent of the total average weekly wage of the decedent, and
- In the event there is no surviving spouse and no dependent children, other dependents such as parents, grandchildren, grandparents, brothers or sisters—who can prove dependency—may be entitled to 15 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage.
Surviving spouses and minor children under the age of 18 are presumed to be dependents of the decedent. Children will be paid workers’ compensation death benefits until they reach the age of 18 or until the age of 23 should they remain full-time students. Regardless of the age of the child, any dependent of the decedent who is incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental disability may be paid for a longer period of time—yet cannot exceed the maximum of 450 weeks. In some cases, stepchildren or children born outside the marriage may not be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits.
Those receiving workers’ compensation benefits may well wonder how they will continue to live and pay bills on 2/3rds or less of their loved one’s salary. While the U.S. Labor Department kept track at one time of how many states were complying with the recommendations of the presidential commission, this stopped in 2004, due to budget cuts. Currently, only seven states now follow at least 15 of the recommendations made during the Nixon administrations while four states comply with less than half of them.
When you consider the “average” funeral in the United States costs from $7,000 to $10,000, you can see the $2,000 paid under workers’ comp doesn’t even begin to cover those costs. Families who lived paycheck to paycheck prior to the death of their loved one could find themselves living in poverty afterwards. Speaking to an experienced Mississippi workers’ compensation attorney could be a beneficial step following the death of a loved one.
If someone you love has died because of a work-related accident or injury, it is important to understand your legal rights. At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys fight aggressively for families whose loved ones have been tragically killed while on the job. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766 or (601) 265-7766.
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