When an employee in Louisiana dies from a work-related illness or injury, the employee’s spouse, children, and other dependents may be eligible for death benefits through workers’ compensation. These weekly benefits are paid to surviving family members who depended on the worker for financial support. Workers’ comp also pays for burial expenses. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on collecting workers’ comp in Louisiana.)
The worker’s spouse and children are presumed to be completely dependent on the worker and entitled to benefits, if they fall under any of the following categories:
Other dependents may be eligible for benefits if they can prove they were wholly or partially dependent on the deceased worker’s earnings, including a spouse who was living apart from the worker. However, only those living in the deceased worker’s household or related to the deceased worker as a spouse, child, sibling, or lineal descendant or ascendant qualify. And, the Louisiana legislature has explicitly excluded unmarried live-in romantic partners and their children from receiving benefits, unless the children are also the worker’s children by blood or adoption.
Partial dependents—those who are only partly dependent on the worker's earnings—are given lower priority than complete dependents. Partial dependents are entitled to benefits only if there are no complete dependents or if the benefits paid to complete dependents are less than the maximum (see below).
The amount of death benefits depends on how many beneficiaries there are and their relationship to the worker. The benefit is stated as a percentage of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. However, in any case, the maximum benefit available to all beneficiaries, combined, is $653. (This amount is updated each year; for current figures, see the Louisiana Workforce Commission's list.)
Partial beneficiaries receive benefits based on how much the worker contributed to their support. As noted above, they receive benefits only if the worker has no wholly dependent beneficiaries or there is money left over (up to the 65%/$653 maximum) after the complete beneficiaries have received their benefits.
If the employee leaves no dependents, the employee’s adult children will receive $75,000, to be divided among them. If there are no dependents and no adult children, the employee’s parents will each receive $75,000.
A surviving spouse is eligible to receive benefits until death or remarriage. In the case of remarriage, the spouse receives a lump-sum payment of two years’ worth of benefits.
Payments to children who are physically or mentally incapacitated continue as long as their incapacity. Other children receive benefits until they reach the age of 18 (or 23, if they are full-time students), they marry, or they die.
For all other dependents, benefits are paid as long as their dependency continues or until they die.
Under Louisiana law, workers’ comp must pay the reasonable expenses of burial for the deceased employee, up to $8,500. If the cost of burial is less than $7,500, the worker’s dependents are entitled to the difference between the actual cost and $7,500.
Dependents seeking death benefits must first notify the employer of the employee’s death. The employer is required to notify the insurance carrier, which will start the benefits process. You must file any claim for death benefits within one year of the employee’s death. If you need help, you should consider talking to a workers’ comp attorney. Learn more about how workers’ comp attorneys charge in Louisiana.