What to Do When a Loved One Dies As a Result of Work?
The unthinkable has happened. It’s the worst case scenario. You’ve lost a loved one due to a workplace accident or disease. And while nothing can bring that person back, support could be available for your grieving family. You may be entitled to compensation under North Carolina law.
It’s not going to make up for your loss, but the money you may be able to receive could help you make ends meet and give you what you need to begin to rebuild. But how much could you receive? How do you get it? A North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the law and advocate for you through this tragic time.
Here’s an overview to help you understand the law and the benefits it may provide.
When Is a Worker’s Death Compensable Under North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law?
There are two factors that govern whether a workplace death is “compensable” – eligible to receive benefits under the statute – in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-38), in order to be covered, the worker’s death must:
- be related to or result from a compensable injury or disease, and
- happen within a specified time.
The worker must have died as the result of, or partially as a result of, a qualifying injury or occupational disease, and within the timeframe specified by law. To qualify, the death must occur either:
- Within six years of the qualifying injury by accident or the onset of disability caused by a qualifying occupational disease, OR
- Within two years from what is called a “final determination of disability,” whichever comes last.
For example, let’s say a worker is injured in a fall, and passes away due to complications from that fall four years later. This worker’s family potentially has a claim. Now, let’s say the same worker received a final determination of disability three years ago. The family still has a possible claim because workers’ compensation law takes claims from the latter of the two dates – in this case, the six year rule would apply.
What if the Death Wasn’t Entirely Caused By the Workplace Injury or Disease?
It doesn’t necessarily matter. If the death of the worker was proximately caused by a workplace injury or occupational disease, you may still have a claim for compensation under the law. You may also have a claim if the injury or disease aggravates an already-existing condition or illness, which results in the worker’s death.
Of course, the definition of “proximately caused” is the key here. An employer or insurance company may use this gray area to defend themselves, deny a claim, or otherwise argue against providing benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you assert your claim under the law.
How Can Families File for Benefits Under North Carolina Law?
The first step is to notify the employer of the employee’s death. As soon as it is practical, the family must notify the employer in writing. Written notice should be given within 30 days of the death, even if the employer is already aware of it. If written notice is given after 30 days of the death, the Industrial Commission may decide to allow the claim anyway if it determines that the delay in reporting was justified and that the employer was not prejudiced by the delay. A Form 18 or Form 18B (for lung diseases) should be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, with a copy to the employer.
Families may wonder who to talk to, what to say, and who to trust as they deal with the passing of a loved one and provider. If you need help with the form or are unsure what to do next, please consider retaining a workers’ compensation attorney with experience in workplace death claims.
What Compensation Is Available to Workers’ Families
The law defines death benefits as:
- A portion of the deceased employee’s weekly wages for up to 500 weeks
- Up to $10,000 in burial expenses
Under North Carolina Law, if an employee dies as a result of a work-related accident or injury, or dies as a result of an
Who Exactly Receives Workplace Death Compensation?
The answer is complicated, but in general:
- A widow, or widower and all children of deceased employees are treated as dependents
- All persons who are wholly dependent on the deceased share the benefits equally
- If there is only one person wholly dependent on the deceased person, that person takes all
- If no one was wholly dependent on the deceased person, partially dependent persons share the benefits based on percentage of the amount of support the deceased gave them from the deceased’s annual salary
- if the deceased employee leaves neither whole nor partial dependents, then compensation can be paid to next of kin, which includes child, father, mother, brother, or sister of the deceased employee, including adult children or adult brothers or adult sisters of the deceased
The law defines relationships and dependence on the worker in ways that may seem confusing. It defines who is wholly dependent, partially dependent, and so on based on a number of factors. It’s one of the most argued aspects of workplace death claims. It is advisable to consult with an experienced workers’ comp attorney regarding your specific situation.
You Need Time to Grieve. Contact an Attorney to Help with the Legal Issues.
It’s a tragedy when a loved one dies at work or because of work. Filing a workers’ compensation claim at a time like this can feel overwhelming. The workers’ compensation laws can be complicated and confusing. To see if we can help, contact a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney today. Call 866-900-7078. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have experience pursuing compensation for our clients who have lost loved ones in North Carolina.