Delaware Workers' Comp Death Benefits: Eligibility & Amounts

If a loved one has died from a work-related injury, you might be eligible for death benefits under Delaware's workers' compensation laws.

You might be eligible for death benefits in Delaware if a loved one dies from a work-related injury or illness. Under Delaware workers’ compensation law, eligible family members receive death benefits based on the deceased employee’s prior earnings. This article explains who is eligible for death benefits, how much death benefits are, and how to file a claim for death benefits. (Other types of Delaware workers’ comp benefits are available to injured workers.)

Am I Eligible for Death Benefits in Delaware?

Eligibility for death benefits in Delaware is based on your relationship to the deceased employee and whether you depended on the employee financially. Benefits are paid in the following order of priority:

  • surviving spouses and children
  • parents who actually depended on the employee for at least half of their financial support, and
  • siblings who actually depended on the employee for at least half of their financial support.

Children and siblings are eligible until they turn 18 years old, unless they are enrolled as full-time students at an accredited educational institution. In that case, they are eligible for benefits until they turn 25 years old. However, adult children and siblings who are mentally or physically handicapped are eligible for benefits regardless of age.

Spouses are entitled to benefits only if they lived with the employee or were receiving (or had the right to receive) support at the time of death.

How Much Are Delaware Death Benefits?

Compensation is calculated as a percentage of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage. However, benefits are capped at the statewide average weekly wage determined each year. Currently, the maximum weekly rate is $686.99 as of July 1, 2017.

Benefits are awarded to eligible family members according to the following terms:

  • Spouse but no children. If there are no children, the spouse receives 66 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wage, as long as the weekly amount is not less than $15.
  • Spouse and children. If there is one child, the spouse receives the same amount mentioned above for both of their benefits. The spouse receives 70% if there are two children, 75% if there are three children, and 80% if there are four or more children.
  • Children but no spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, children receive 66 2/3%, plus an additional 10% for each child in excess of two children. However, the benefit cannot exceed 80%. Payment is divided equally among the children and paid to their guardians.
  • No spouse or children. If there is no spouse or child, the employee’s dependent parents receive 20%.
  • No spouse, children, or dependent parent. In this case, 15% is paid to a dependent sibling. The benefit increases by 5% for each additional sibling, up to a maximum of 25%.

The minimum benefits paid to a spouse can’t be less than 22 2/9% of the average weekly state wage, and the compensation for any child can’t be less than $10 per week, unless the total maximum benefits are being paid.

How Long Are Death Benefits Paid?

Spouses are entitled to compensation until they die or remarry. Upon remarriage, a spouse will receive a final lump-sum payment of two years’ worth of benefits. Children receive benefits until they turn 18 (or 25, if full-time students). All other dependents are limited to 400 weeks of payments.

Can I Receive Reimbursement for Funeral Expenses?

The employer must pay reasonable burial and funeral expenses up to $3,500. However, the Delaware Industrial Accident Board may approve a bill for more than $3,500 if the expenses are reasonable.

How Do I File a Claim for Death Benefits?

Immediately notify the worker’s employer, in writing, of the employee’s death. If the employer’s insurance provider denies your claim, file an application with the Office of Workers’ Compensation for a hearing with the Industrial Accident Board. This application must be filed within two years of the employee’s death. Talk to a Delaware worker’s comp lawyer about how to file a claim and how to appeal an unfavorable decision.

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