Workplace accidents happen every day in Illinois, and fortunately, most people are able to survive them. Sadly, some do not. When a workplace accident is fatal, loved ones are left grieving and worrying about how they will meet their financial obligations. Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, surviving loved ones can often receive death benefits that can help them pay for their daily expenses as well as the funeral and burial costs associated with the death. Learn more about Illinois workers’ compensation death benefits below, and contact the Law Office of Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC today to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
What are Death Benefits?
Death benefits under the workers’ compensation program are similar to those paid to an employee who becomes injured at work. The only difference is that the worker did not survive the accident. Just as an injured employee must have been performing duties within the scope of their employment to receive wage and medical benefits, the same is true for death benefits as well. Also, like injury-related benefits, death benefits are awarded on a no-fault system. This means that even if the employee was partly at fault for the fatal accident, eligible loved ones can still receive benefits.
Generally speaking, death benefits provide 2/3 of a workers’ gross weekly wage. These benefits do have caps, or limits, which are calculated using the pay the employee received 52 weeks prior to their death. The caps do vary according to adjustments for the increased cost of living. The minimum benefit amount currently is $589.51 and the maximum benefit is $1,572.01 per week. Currently, death benefits are paid for a maximum of 25 years or up to a maximum of $500,000, whichever is greater. Although the amount of death benefits are calculated on a weekly basis, eligible family members will receive monthly payments.
Another important aspect of workers’ compensation death benefits is the benefits paid for funeral and burial costs. The amount of these benefits also varies, but it is currently $8,000. These benefits are typically very important for surviving loved ones. Funeral and burial costs are often exorbitant, and they are incredibly difficult for family members to pay for on their own after losing someone they love.
Who is Eligible for Death Benefits?
Death benefits are intended to help surviving loved ones pay for their daily expenses and the costs associated with the death. As such, they are only available to certain eligible family members.
Death benefits are first distributed to primary beneficiaries, which are the closest relatives to the deceased worker. Primary beneficiaries are the spouse and minor children of the worker. If the worker did not have a surviving spouse or children, the worker’s parents can receive the benefits if they were completely dependent on the worker. If the worker did not have a surviving spouse, children, or dependent parents, another party may be eligible to receive the benefits. However, they must show that they were at least 50 percent dependent on the deceased worker.
How to File for Death Benefits
The process of receiving death benefits begins when you file an application for adjustment of claim. You can obtain this form from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. It is important to know that you only have a limited amount of time to file this form. You can submit your application three years from the date of the worker’s death.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Claiming workers’ compensation is never easy, and it becomes even more difficult when you are trying to claim death benefits. You should never apply for these benefits on your own. Instead, work with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer who has the necessary experience with these claims.
Filing the application with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission seems straightforward enough, but that is not always the case. One mistake on this form may be enough to result in a forfeiture of benefits. A lawyer who has handled death benefit cases before will have the familiarity necessary with these applications to ensure no mistakes are made and that you receive the full benefits you are entitled to.
Another obstacle people often face when applying for death benefits is arguments from the employer. It is not uncommon for employers to dispute workers’ compensation claims, because it could mean an increase in their insurance premiums. One way they do this with death benefits in particular is to argue that the worker was not an employee but rather an independent contractor. Independent contractors are not eligible for injury or death benefits from workers’ compensation so misclassification is very harmful to your case.
Determining when a worker is an employee or independent contractor is not always easy, particularly if they did not have a contract. Typically, making this determination requires a full examination of the case. A lawyer will study the facts of the case and determine whether the worker was treated like an employee or as an independent contractor. For example, the work performed by employees is largely overseen by the employer, but that is not the case with independent contractors.
Get Legal Help Today
No one should ever lose a loved one just because they went to work. If you have lost someone you love, our Illinois workers’ compensation lawyers are here to help. At the Law Office of Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC, our skilled attorneys can guide you through the complex process of applying for death benefits and give you the best chance of a positive outcome. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.