When an employee in Maine passes away from a work-related illness or injury, the employee’s surviving spouse and dependent children are eligible for death benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. Other dependent family members might also be eligible for benefits, depending on the circumstances. (To learn about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on how much workers’ comp benefits are in Maine.)
In Maine, the deceased worker’s surviving spouse and dependent children are considered “wholly dependent” for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits. This means they are automatically entitled to a set percentage of the worker’s earnings prior to death, as explained below.
Other family members can qualify as wholly or partially dependent on the worker. However, partial dependents will receive benefits only if there are no wholly dependent family members.
The worker’s surviving spouse and children are automatically considered wholly dependent if they meet the tests below.
To qualify as wholly dependent, a surviving spouse must be:
To qualify as wholly dependent, a child must be dependent in any way on the deceased worker or on the parent with whom the child is living and must be:
Other family members or next of kin may also qualify as wholly dependent on a case-by-case basis. They must have been totally dependent on the deceased worker’s earnings at the time of the injury.
Any family members or next of kin to the deceased worker may qualify as partially dependent on a case-by-case basis. They must have been partly financially dependent on the deceased worker’s earnings at the time of the injury.
Eligible survivors are entitled to weekly death benefits. If there are wholly dependent survivors, as defined above, they are eligible for a total award of two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wages, up to a maximum amount based on the state’s average weekly wage. The current maximum is $804.40. (Find the current maximum at the Max Comp Rate page of the Maine Worker’s Compensation Board website.) The compensation is divided equally among all eligible whole dependents.
If a deceased worker leaves only partially dependent survivors, the weekly benefit amount is based on how much the worker contributed to each dependent before the injury.
Benefits are paid for a maximum of 500 weeks, with the following exceptions:
Under Maine law, the deceased worker’s employer must pay the reasonable costs of burial for the employee, up to $4,000, to the person who is responsible for paying for the burial. In addition, the employer must pay $3,000 for incidental expenses to the deceased worker’s estate.
To qualify for death benefits, the deceased employee’s dependent or representative must file a notice of injury with the employer within 30 days. A petition for death benefits must be filed within one year of the employee’s death or within two years of the employee’s date of injury, whichever is later. However, in any case, a claim must be filed within six years from the date of the last workers’ comp payment. If you believe you may be entitled to death benefits, you should speak to your loved one’s employer or it workers’ compensation carrier right away. (To learn more, see our article on how to file a workers’ comp claim in Maine.)