When an employee in Maryland 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 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 Maryland.)
Unlike other states, Maryland does not limit death benefits to certain relatives or family members of the worker. If you were financially dependent on the deceased worker’s wages, you may qualify for death benefits. Dependency is determined at the time of the injury that caused the worker’s death.
The amount of the total death benefit depends on the worker’s average weekly wage and the degree of dependence. If the worker was the only breadwinner in the family, surviving dependents receive two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage, up to a maximum set by law each year. For 2018, the maximum weekly benefit to all beneficiaries is $1,094.
If other family members also contributed to the family’s finances while the worker was alive, the total death benefit described above will multiplied by the percentage that the worker contributed to the household. For example, if a deceased worker contributed 60% of the household income and a spouse contributed 40%, dependents would receive 60% of two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage. So, if the worker earned $900 a week, dependents would receive a weekly death benefit of $360 per week (two-thirds of $900 = 600; 60% of 600 = 360). .
This is the total amount available to all dependents. Maryland law allows the state’s worker’s compensation commission to apportion the total award among the dependents. The commission may also decide that the award may be paid to one or more of the dependents, who then must apply those benefits as directed by the commission.
The duration of benefits depends on your relationship to the deceased worker, among other things. Generally, workers’ comp will pay death benefits for a minimum of five years and a maximum of 144 months (12 years). Benefits may end sooner in some circumstances. For example, if a dependent spouse remarries, benefits to the spouse will end two years after the remarriage. Benefits may also terminate on the date the deceased worker would have turned 70, but only if dependents have received at least five years’ worth of benefits by then.
Even after these time limits have run, benefits may still be available to a spouse or child who is incapable of supporting him- or herself due to disability that preceded the deceased worker’s death. And, the deceased worker’s children will continue to receive benefits until they turn 18, or until they turn 23, if they are enrolled full-time in an accredited school.
For dependents other than a surviving spouse or child of the deceased worker, there is a dollar limit on benefits. This limit is adjusted every year. For 2018, these dependents may not receive more than $73,690 collectively.
Under Maryland law, workers’ comp must also pay reasonable funeral expenses for the deceased worker, up to $7,000. Workers’ comp must pay this amount whether or not the deceased worker had any dependents.
Dependents seeking death benefits or funeral benefits must file a claim. You can find links to the forms you will need to file at the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission death benefits page. You must file this claim within 18 months after the worker’s death.
If you’re having trouble getting the death benefits you are entitled to, a workers’ comp lawyer can help. See our article on how workers’ comp lawyers charge in Maryland to learn more.