When an employee in New Hampshire dies from an illness or injury that is related to work, the employee’s spouse, children, and other dependents may be eligible for death benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. These weekly benefits are paid to surviving family members who depended on the worker for financial support. Workers’ comp also pays for funeral and burial expenses. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on New Hampshire workers’ comp benefits.)
The following family members qualify as dependents who are entitled to death benefits:
Eligible survivors are entitled to weekly death benefits. These benefits are 60% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage before the injury leading to death. Death benefits are subject to minimum and maximum limits, which are adjusted each year in July. Currently, beneficiaries may not receive more than $1,537.50 per week or less than $307.50 per week. This is the total amount available to all dependents.
Some states have laws declaring the exact percentage or amount that each family member can receive. However, in New Hampshire, the workers’ compensation commissioner has discretion to apportion the award among the eligible dependents as appropriate in each case. Family members, other than a spouse or child, who were only partially dependent on the worker will receive benefits in proportion to the percentage of the support the worker provided while alive.
Benefits to a surviving spouse end upon remarriage, in which case his or her benefit is paid to the worker’s dependent children. Children typically receive benefits until they turn 18, or if they are enrolled in school full time, until they turn 25. However, children who are mentally or physically incapacitated can receive benefits as long as the incapacity continues. For other family members, benefits end when the person is adopted, marries, or becomes self-supporting.
Under New Hampshire law, workers’ comp must also pay up to $10,000 for burial expenses.
To qualify for death benefits, you must file a claim. The deceased worker’s employer or its workers’ compensation insurance carrier should be able to provide you with the necessary forms.
Generally, the time limit for filing is three years after the date of the injury (not the date of death). However, this three-year limit doesn’t start until the date you knew, or should have known if you had exercised reasonable diligence, of the nature of the injury and its possible relationship to the worker’s job.
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 New Hampshire to learn more.