When an employee in Michigan 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 Michigan.)
In Michigan. the deceased worker’s surviving spouse, lineal descendants (such as children and grandchildren), ancestors (such as parents and grandparents), siblings, or other family members may qualify as dependents.
Beneficiaries can be wholly dependent or partially dependent on the worker’s earnings. In Michigan, the worker’s children are presumed to be wholly dependent if they are:
They must also have been living with the worker at the time of death, been the worker’s child by a former spouse, or been deserted by the worker.
All others must prove that they were either completely or partially dependent on the worker’s earnings for support at the time of death to qualify for benefits.
Those who were wholly dependent on the deceased worker are first in line for death benefits. The total benefit amount to all beneficiaries, combined, is 80% of the worker’s average weekly wage after federal income tax, state income tax, and Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes are taken out. You can look up what this amount will be, based on the deceased worker’s pre-tax pay, in tables available at the Michigan Worker’s Compensation Agency website.
This benefit is also subject to maximum and minimum benefit amounts that are adjusted each year, based on the average wages for all workers in the state. For 2018, the maximum weekly benefit that may be paid to all beneficiaries is $900; the minimum benefit is just under $500. You can find the current amounts by selecting “State Average Weekly Wage Chart” from the website of the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency.
If there is more than one wholly dependent beneficiary, they share the total benefit amount equally. If the worker leaves no wholly dependent beneficiaries, partial dependents are eligible for benefits. The amount of the benefit is in proportion to how much the worker contributed to their support.
Dependents may receive benefits for no more than 500 weeks. However, a workers’ compensation magistrate may order payments to continue for any dependents, whole or partial, until they turn 21.
Benefits to a spouse end on remarriage. If any children are receiving benefits when the spouse remarries, those benefits end when they turn 18 (or 16, if they have been self-supporting for six months).
Under Michigan law, workers’ comp must pay the reasonable expenses of the deceased worker’s final sickness, funeral, and burial, up to $6,000.
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. If the employer does not promptly move your claim forward, you should contact the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency right away for information on how to proceed. You must file a claim for benefits within two years of the worker’s death. If you need help, you should consider talking to a workers’ comp attorney. Learn more about how workers’ comp attorneys charge in Michigan.