When a worker passes away from a work-related injury or illness, his or her surviving dependents are eligible to receive benefits. Called “death benefits,” these sums are available to the worker’s spouse, children, or other dependents who relied on the worker for financial support. (To learn about compensation for injured workers, see our article on Hawaii workers’ comp benefits.)
A worker’s dependents—those who relied on the worker for financial support—are eligible to receive weekly death benefits. The following family members are considered to be dependents who will receive benefits:
If the worker does not leave a spouse or dependent children, other family members who actually depended on the worker for financial support can qualify—including parents, grandparents, grandchildren, or siblings. However, grandchildren or siblings must either be under 18 or incapable of supporting themselves and must have been wholly dependent on the worker.
The amount of death benefits are based on a percentage of the worker’s prior earnings and depend on which family members are eligible. Benefits for all eligible family members combined cannot be more than 66 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wages. The total weekly benefit also cannot be more than the state maximum benefit rate. (See the website of the Hawaii Disability Compensation Division for current rates.)
Death benefits are paid weekly, the following order of priority:
Death benefits end when a spouse dies or remarries. However, the spouse can receive a lump sum worth of two years’ of benefits upon remarriage. A dependent child continues to receive weekly payments as long as they meet the eligibility requirements described above. For example, minor children will receive payments until they reach 18, unless they continue on to higher education.
A dependent parent or grandparent will continue to receive benefits as long as they are dependent on the payments for financial support. A grandchild or sibling will receive benefits until they turn 18 or become able to support themselves.
In all cases, the total amount paid cannot be more than 312 times the maximum weekly benefit rate in Hawaii. However, this does not include payments to an unmarried spouse or child who is physically or mentally incapable of supporting themselves.
Workers' comp must pay for funeral costs up to ten times the maximum weekly benefit rate in Hawaii. For 2018, this sum is $8,830. Workers’ comp must also pay for burial expenses up to five times the maximum weekly benefit rate in Hawaii. For 2018, this sum is $4,415. Payments are made directly to the mortician and cemetery selected by the workers’ family. However, if the deceased worker prepaid for funeral and burial costs, the reimbursements go to the worker’s surviving spouse or reciprocal beneficiary.
You should inform your loved one’s employer as soon as possible after he or she passes away due to a work injury. The employer or its insurance company should give you any necessary paperwork to file your claim for death benefits. If the employer isn’t helpful, contact the Hawaii Disability Compensation Division.
If you’re having trouble collecting workers’ comp death benefits, you should consult with a workers’ comp lawyer. To learn more, see our article on how much a Hawaii workers’ comp lawyer costs.