If an employee dies because of a work-related injury or illness in Minnesota, certain family members might be eligible for death benefits through workers’ compensation. Death benefits include weekly payments to help replace the deceased worker’s income, as well as funeral and burial costs. (Other workers’ compensation benefits are available to injured workers who are still alive.)
Certain family members are considered dependents and receive priority for benefits, including:
Other family members who received some or all of their financial support from the worker can also qualify as a full or partial dependents, including parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, or siblings.
Death benefits are based on the worker’s average weekly wage prior to the injury. The total amount of death benefits paid to all family members cannot be more than 66 ⅔% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. And, the weekly benefit cannot be more than a maximum set by law each year. For October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018, the maximum weekly benefit is $1,061.82.
Minnesota law also provides for a yearly cost of living adjustment to workers’ compensation benefits, starting on the third anniversary (for injuries on or after October 1, 2013). These cost of living adjustments can result in weekly payments greater than the maximum rate stated above. (For a full list of weekly maximums and cost of living adjustments based on the date of accident, see the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website.)
Benefits are paid in the following amounts and order of priority until the total benefit reaches 66 ⅔% of the worker’s average weekly wage:
The minimum total payments to dependent beneficiaries must add up to at least $60,000. If any of the above family members were only partially dependent, they would be entitled to a reduced death benefit in proportion to how much financial support they received from the worker. In appropriate circumstances, the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court can determine that a portion of benefits for one or more minor children be paid to a guardian on the children’s behalf, instead of to the surviving spouse.
When any dependent dies or gets married then benefits usually end for that individual. The one exception is that a surviving spouse will continue to receive benefits after remarriage until the 10-year limit is reached. When a child reaches age 18 (or age 25 if a full-time student) benefits will stop, unless the child is disabled and incapacitated from earning.
The workers’ dependents or the estate of the deceased worker can also receive up to $15,000 for burial expenses.
A beneficiary can file for benefits by completing the Claim Petition for Dependency Benefits or Payment to Estate form, available at the website of the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Division. There are strict deadlines for providing notice of the death to the worker’s employer and filing a claim for death benefits. To learn more, consult with a workers’ comp attorney in your area.