Workplace deaths and survivor benefits: Information for Missouri families

991968_funeral_lights.jpgWhen a loved one dies on the job, surviving family members are left to face an uncertain future. In addition to the grief and devastation that comes with losing a loved one, many families have to worry about numerous expenses, both in the present and long-term. In this post, our Missouri workers' comp lawyers answer some common questions about survivor benefits.

When are Missouri survivor benefits available?

Certain surviving family members may be entitled to survivor benefits under the following circumstances:

• When an employee's death is caused by an on-the-job injury

• When an employee is injured on the job and returns to work with a permanent partial disability (PPD); and later dies of an unrelated cause

• When an employee is injured on the job and is unable to return to work (permanent total disability, or PTD); and later dies of an unrelated cause

In the majority of cases, survivor benefits are available to the deceased's "total dependents," meaning the spouse and/or dependent children. For children, benefits will continue until they turn 18 (unless they attend college full-time, in which case they can receive benefits until age 22). If there is another party who was partially dependent on the deceased, that party might be eligible for partial dependency benefits, but only if the deceased had no total dependents (i.e., no spouse or dependent children).

What kind of benefits can I receive?

• If an employee's death is caused by an on-the-job injury: Survivors may be entitled to weekly payments from the employer/insurer. These weekly payments are given at 66 2/3% of the deceased's average weekly wages during the year before the accident occurred, up to a maximum. Survivors may also be entitled to funeral expenses up to $5,000.

• If an employee on disability dies of an unrelated cause: In general, surviving immediate family members may be entitled to the deceased's accrued benefits - often, a lump sum payment for PPD. However, these kinds of cases can present numerous complications, so we recommend that you meet with an attorney to discuss the specific details of your situation.

What steps do I need to take if I want to claim survivor's benefits?

• When a worker dies in the course of employment, the employer is required by law to report the death to the Division of Workers' Compensation within 30 days after the employer is notified about the fatality. (If this step is not taken, you should notify the Missouri Department of Labor's Fraud and Noncompliance Unit.)

• Once the Division is notified, it will contact the eligible surviving family members and begin paying survivor benefits. (If you are not contacted by the Division and you believe you are entitled to survivor benefits, you should contact the employer - and it may also be in your best interest to seek legal advice.)

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