You might be eligible for death benefits under Alaska’s workers’ compensation law if a loved one dies from a work-related injury. Benefits are based on the deceased employee’s prior earnings. This article explains who is eligible for death benefits in Alaska, how much death benefits are, and how to file a claim for death benefits. (Other workers' comp benefits are available to injured workers in Alaska while alive.)
In Alaska, the worker’s spouse and children have priority for death benefits. Unmarried children are eligible until they are 19 years old (if enrolled in high school) or during their first four years of college, technical school, or trade school. If the employee leaves behind children from a prior marriage who don’t live with the surviving spouse, those children will receive benefits under a child support order.
If there is no spouse or children, the worker’s parents, grandchildren, and siblings are eligible for benefits. However, they must have actually depended on the employee for financial support at the time of death.
Alaska's workers' comp law allows family members to collect death benefits even if they are not residents of the United States. Benefits are generally paid in the same amount to nonresidents as those paid to residents. However, dependents who live in a foreign country are limited to spouses and children, or if there is no spouse or child, to parents who financially relied on the employee for at least one year before the date of death.
Eligible beneficiaries are paid a percentage of the deceased employee’s spendable weekly wage. The spendable weekly wage is the employee’s gross weekly earnings after payroll taxes. However, benefits cannot exceed a weekly maximum set by law each year.
If there is a spouse or child, the following percentages of the worker's spendable weekly wage are awarded:
If there is no spouse or child, 42% is paid to dependent parents, grandchildren, and siblings, divided equally. However, the total compensation given to dependent parents, grandchildren, and siblings can’t exceed $20,000.
Total weekly compensation can’t be less than $75 for a spouse, $25 for a child, or $50 for multiple children. The spouse and/or children will also receive a one-time lump sum payment of $5,000.
A spouse may only receive death benefits for 12 years, unless the spouse is at least 52 years old or permanently and totally disabled when the employee dies. A spouse who remarries will stop receiving weekly benefits but will get two years’ worth of benefits in one lump-sum payment.
The employee’s family may also receive reasonable and necessary funeral expenses up to $10,000.
Give the worker’s employer and the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board written notice within 30 days of the employee’s death. If the employer’s insurer denies your death benefits claim, you can file a claim with the Board. But you must do so within one year of the employee’s death. Talk to a lawyer about how to file a worker’s comp claim with the employer and Board and how to appeal an unfavorable decision.