When an Illinois employee dies from a work-related injury or illness, the worker’s family members may be eligible for death benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation system. These death benefits are available to surviving family members to help with living expenses and funeral costs. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on Illinois workers’ comp benefits.)
Are You Eligible for Death Benefits in Illinois?
The following family members qualify as dependents who are entitled to death benefits:
- a spouse
- a child under 18
- a child under 25, if enrolled full-time in an accredited educational institution, and
- a child of any age who is physically or mentally incapacitated.
If the worker does not have a spouse or child as defined above, other family members might qualify for benefits including parents, adult children, grandparents, and grandchildren.
How Much Are Death Benefits in Illinois?
Death benefits are calculated on a weekly basis. Eligible dependents may receive up to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage, subject to a minimum and maximum set by law each year. Currently, beneficiaries may not receive more than $1,463.80 per week combined or less than $548.93 per week combined. (Check the current rates at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission’s benefit rates page.) And, no matter what, benefits will stop after 25 years or after $500,000 has been paid out.
Family members are entitled to weekly benefits in the following order of priority:
- Spouse and children. Benefits are shared among a spouse and any children who are under 18, under 25 if enrolled in school full time, or any age and physically or mentally incapacitated. Benefits continue until the spouse dies or until the youngest child reaches the age of 18 (or 25, if the child is enrolled in school full-time), whichever is later. If a child is physically or mentally incapacitated, benefits will continue for as long as the condition persists. If the spouse remarries and no children are eligible for benefits, the spouse will receive a lump-sum payment of two years’ worth of benefits, then benefits will no longer be paid.
- Totally dependent parents. If there is no surviving spouse or children, benefits will be paid to the worker’s parents if they were totally dependent on the worker financially. This benefit continues for the lifetime of the parents.
- Dependent adult children and partially dependent parents. If the worker has no eligible family members in the above categories, benefits will be paid to the worker’s adult children who are in any manner dependent on the deceased worker’s earnings, or to any parent who is partially dependent on those earnings. Benefits may be paid for up to eight years.
- Grandparents, grandchildren, and more. If the worker has no eligible family members in the above categories, benefits may be available to the worker’s grandparents, grandchildren, or collateral heirs (family members who are related through sibling relationships, such as a brother or sister, aunt or uncle, or cousin). To collect benefits, the family member must be at least 50% dependent on the deceased worker’s earnings. Benefits are available for five years.
How Much Do Family Members Receive for Funeral Benefits in Illinois?
Workers’ compensation must pay for the actual costs of the funeral, up to a current maximum of $8,000. This amount must be paid to the surviving spouse, another dependent of the deceased worker, the deceased worker’s next of kin, or the person who paid the funeral expenses.
How to File a Claim for Death Benefits
To qualify for death benefits, you must file a form called Application for Adjustment of Claim, available from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website. Generally, the time limit for filing is three years after the worker’s death or two year after the last benefit payment to the worker, whichever is later. An attorney can help you figure out when and how to file your claim.