You might be eligible for death benefits under Iowa’s workers’ compensation law if a loved one has passed away from a work-related injury. Eligible dependents receive benefits based on the deceased employee’s prior earnings. This article explains whether you are eligible for death benefits, what benefits you are entitled to receive, and how to file your claim. (To learn about benefits for injured workers, see our article on Iowa workers’ comp benefits.)
You might be eligible for death benefits in Iowa if you depended on the deceased employee for financial support when the work-related injury happened. How much you depended on the employee determines the amount of benefits that you receive. Iowa distinguishes between whole and partial dependents.
The following individuals are conclusively presumed to be whole dependents:
Children under 25 years old who can prove that they actually depended on the worker for financial support are also eligible for benefits. Full-time students enrolled in an accredited educational institution are presumed to be actually dependent on the worker. Anyone else who is physically or mentally incapable of support or actually depended on the employee for support is eligible for benefits. Those who wholly relied on the worker for support receive priority over those who were only partially dependent on the employee.
The worker must also have died from the work-related injury in order for death benefits to apply. If the employee was injured at work but later dies from an unrelated cause, you are not entitled to death benefits or any other workers’ compensation benefits.
Whole dependents receive weekly payments equal to 80% of the employee’s average weekly after-tax earnings. Benefits are divided equally among whole dependents. However, the benefit can’t be more than the statewide average weekly wage. Through June 30, 2018, the maximum benefit is $1,720. (For current amounts, visit the website of the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation.)
Partial dependents only receive benefits if there are no whole dependents. Partial dependents receive benefits in proportion to how much of the employee’s annual earnings they received as support. For example, if you received 50% of the employee’s earnings, your death benefit would be 50% of what a whole dependent would have received. The math can be confusing, so you should talk to a lawyer to be sure you receive the compensation that you deserve.
Spouses are eligible for benefits for life or until remarriage. If there are no children in the picture, a spouse who remarries will receive two years’ worth of benefits in a lump sum.
Workers' comp pays reasonable burial expenses up to 12 times the statewide average weekly wage at the time of death. The current maximum burial benefit is $10,320.
The Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation oversees all workers’ compensation claims in Iowa. You should notify the employer of the death as soon as possible and make a claim. You have the right to appeal if the employer’s insurance provider denies your death benefits claim. Talk to a lawyer about the claims process and how to appeal an unfavorable decision. (To learn more, see our article on hiring an Iowa workers’ comp lawyer.)