If you lose a loved one due to an accident during the course of work, or an illness arising out of the work activities, you can seek benefits under North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. These include death benefits which are available to the dependents, heirs, survivors, and next-of-kin of the deceased. However, you must understand how to apply for these benefits and what are the benefits available in this regard before you file a claim. Here is a look at these.
When Are Death Benefits Available?
In order to be eligible for death benefits, a death caused by a workplace injury or illness must occur within 6 years of the injury or discovery or illness, or within two years from the date when the Industrial Commission recognizes a disability.
If you are claiming death benefits on behalf of a loved one who has died from a workplace injury or illness, you must be able to prove causation.
In some cases, a person may die during the course of work but the precise cause of death, or the incident that led to death, remains unknown. When this is the case, the death is automatically covered by the North Carolina workers’ compensation laws. In other words, if you have lost a loved one to such a situation, you will be able to seek full workers’ comp benefits. The rule which is rarely applicable is known as the ‘Pickrell Presumption.’
North Carolina workers’ comp rules do not apply to intentional harm leading to injury or death. However, if workplace conditions and circumstances forced an employee to become depressed and subsequently commit suicide, this may be covered under workers’ comp insurance.
Time Limit to Claim Death Benefits
If you lose a loved one due to a workplace accident, you are required to notify the employer about your claim to death benefits. Such a notice must be provided as soon as possible and no later than 30 days as per NC Statutes 97-22. The employer is then required to fill out Form 19 and file a report about the incident within five days of receiving the notice. Further details regarding the incident must be submitted by the employer through Form 29 within 45 days of the knowledge or allegation of workplace fatality.
Who Can Claim the Benefits?
The actual beneficiaries of the death benefits can be one person or several persons. When offering death benefits, the commission will look for the following people:
- Partial or complete dependents of the deceased
- If only one completely dependent person exists, all death benefits will go to that person
- If several partially dependent persons exist, they will split death benefits in proportion to the support they had been receiving from the deceased prior to death
- Next-of-kin may be entitled to receive the death benefits. These can include the spouse, children, siblings, or parents of the deceased.
What Is the Amount of Death Benefits?
In North Carolina workers’ compensation claims, death benefits are usually paid weekly. The amount of the weekly death benefits is two-thirds of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage as per North Carolina General Statutes 97-38. The benefits also include funeral expenses to the tune of $10,000.
In general, the death benefits are payable for up to 500 weeks after the death of an employee. If the deceased left behind a spouse that was mentally or physically disabled, the benefits will continue for the length of the spouse’s life. However, if the spouse later remarries, the benefits will discontinue.
A minor child of the deceased employee will continue to receive the death benefits until he or she turns 18. The death benefits then discontinue. If the benefits must go to a minor child or a dependent who is deemed as unable to make suitable decisions, the Industrial Commission may appoint a guardian.
Hiring a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Charlotte, NC
If you have lost a dear one to a workplace injury or illness, it is important to file a claim for death benefits at the earliest. On one hand, filing this claim is a way of holding the employer accountable for the tragedy. On the other hand, the claim helps the dependents of the deceased to stay financially afloat after the loss.
Here at Ted Greve & Associates, we can help you file a claim and seek the full amount of benefits applicable to your case. Simply call us today and schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.