When an employee in Arkansas 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 Arkansas.)
Under Arkansas’s workers’ compensation law, death benefits are available first to family members who were wholly and actually dependent on the deceased worker’s wages. If there are no whole dependents, family members who were partially dependent on the worker’s earnings can receive benefits.
The following family members qualify as dependents if they relied on the worker for financial support:
However, children, grandchildren, and siblings only qualify for benefits if they are under 18, or if they are enrolled in school full time, under 25. However, the age limit does not apply to those who are physically or mentally incapacitated from making a living.
The most workers’ comp will pay in death benefits to all wholly dependent beneficiaries combined is 66 2/3% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wages. However, these benefits are subject to a maximum amount, calculated every year, based on the state’s average weekly wage. For 2018, the maximum weekly benefit payable to all beneficiaries is $673.
Beneficiaries are entitled to benefits in the following amounts and order of priority:
This is a priority-based system, which means parents, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren may receive only some—or none—of these benefits if the surviving spouse and children have maxed out the total available benefit.
Partial dependents receive benefits only if there are no family members who were wholly dependent on the deceased worker’s wages. If there are partial beneficiaries, they are entitled to a share of the total benefit based on how much the worker contributed to their support.
Benefits to a surviving spouse end upon death or remarriage; a spouse who remarries is entitled to a lump-sum payment of two years’ worth of benefits. Benefits to the worker’s children, grandchildren, or siblings end when these family members marry, reach the age of 18 or, for children enrolled full-time in school, reach the age of 25. These cutoffs don’t apply to family members who are mentally or physically incapacitated from earning.
The total maximum death benefits which may be paid out to all beneficiaries is 325 times the weekly benefit rate.
Under Arkansas law, workers’ comp must pay the deceased worker’s funeral expenses, up to a maximum of $6,000.
Dependents seeking death benefits should immediately notify the employer of the employee’s death. The employer is required to notify the insurance carrier, which will start the benefits process. You must file any claim for death benefits within two years of the employee’s death. If you need help, you should consider talking to a workers’ comp attorney. Learn more about how workers’ comp attorneys charge in Arkansas.