You might be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if a work-related injury or illness results in a loved one’s death. Under Kentucky law, eligible family members receive a portion the deceased employee’s earnings. This article explains if you are eligible for death benefits, how much you are entitled to receive, and how to file your claim. (To learn about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on Kentucky workers’ comp benefits.)
Your relationship to, and financial dependence on, the deceased employee determines whether you are eligible for death benefits. In Kentucky, the following family members are presumed to be financially dependent on the employee:
The following family members are also eligible for benefits if they prove that they actually depended on the employee for financial support:
“Actual dependence” is based on a person’s income when the employee died. A person whose income increases may see a reduction in benefits or lose access to them entirely. You are presumed to no longer be actually dependent three years after the employee’s death, but you can overcome that presumption by proving that you are still financially dependent on the death benefits.
Eligible family members receive weekly benefits based on a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage, as described below. However, death benefits for all dependents combined cannot be more than 75% of the worker’s average weekly wage. And, the amount cannot be more than the statewide average weekly wage, which is determined each year. In 2018, the maximum weekly benefit is $848.41 (the minimum benefits is $169.67).
The following percentages of the worker’s average weekly wage are assigned to eligible family members:
Benefits will be reduced if these percentages add up to more than 75% of the worker’s average weekly wage. Spouses and children have priority over parents, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren. Any compensation remaining after spouses and children have been paid will be apportioned among the other beneficiaries according to the percentages described above.
Spouses stop receiving benefits if they remarry. However, they will receive a final lump-sum payment of two years’ worth of benefits. Benefits end for children when they turn 18 or get married. Parents and grandparents stop receiving benefits when they die, marry, or can no longer prove actual dependence. Siblings and grandchildren stop receiving benefits when they die, marry, reach 18 years old, are no longer physically or mentally incapable of self-support, or can no longer prove actual dependence.
If the employee died within four years of the injury, the employee’s estate will also receive a lump-sum payment to cover burial and other expenses. That amount is tied to the statewide average weekly wage. In 2018, the lump sum total is $83,336.22. (For current amounts, visit the website of the Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims.)
The Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims oversees death benefit and other workers’ compensation matters. The claim must be filed within two years of the employee’s death. Notify the employer as soon as possible and then file a written claim with the department. Most Kentucky employers have workers’ comp insurance coverage. The insurance company must approve or deny the claim within 60 days of receiving it. You have the right to appeal if your claim is denied. Talk to a lawyer about how to file a claim and how to appeal an unfavorable decision. (To learn more, see our article on hiring a workers’ comp lawyer in Kentucky.)