When an employee in Alabama dies from a work-related illness or injury, the employee’s spouse, children, and other dependents may be eligible for death benefits through workers’ compensation. These weekly benefits are paid to surviving family members who depended on the worker for financial support. Workers’ comp also pays for burial expenses. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on collecting workers’ comp in Alabama.)
Under Alabama’s workers’ compensation law, death benefits are payable to certain family members who were dependent, in whole or in part, on the deceased worker’s earnings.
The following family members are presumed to be wholly dependent and entitled to benefits:
If there is no spouse or child, other relatives of the deceased worker who were completely or partially dependent on the worker’s earnings can also qualify for benefits, in the following order of priority:
If the employee has no dependents, workers’ comp must pay $7,500 to the worker’s estate.
In Alabama, beneficiaries are entitled to benefits in the order of priority set out above. If there is one wholly dependent beneficiary, that person receives one-half of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. If there are two or more wholly dependent beneficiaries, they share two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage.
If there are no wholly dependent beneficiaries, or if there is only one wholly dependent beneficiary, partial dependents may also receive benefits. Partial dependents receive benefits in the same order of priority set out above. The amount payable to partial dependents is based on how much the deceased worker contributed to their support. However, that amount is limited to 16 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wage, or the difference between the amount payable to the wholly dependent beneficiary and the maximum benefit, whichever is less.
Weekly benefits are also subject to maximum and minimum amounts that are adjusted each year, based on the average wages for all workers in the state. Until July 1, 2018, the maximum benefit that may be paid to all beneficiaries is $843 per week; the minimum benefit is $232 per week. However, beneficiaries may receive less than the minimum benefit in either of these two situations:
Benefits are payable for up to 500 weeks. However, benefits may end sooner if a beneficiary dies. Benefits also end for a surviving spouse upon remarriage and for a child upon turning 18 (unless the child is physically or mentally incapacitated from earning).
Under Alabama law, workers’ comp must pay the reasonable burial expenses of the deceased worker, up to $6,500.
Dependents seeking death benefits must first notify the employer of the employee’s death. The employer is required to notify the insurance carrier, which will start the benefits process. If you aren’t satisfied with the employer’s or the insurance company’s response, you should talk to an Alabama workers’ comp lawyer. You must file a claim for death benefits within two years, under Alabama law.