When a worker passes away from a work-related injury or illness, his or her surviving dependents are eligible to receive benefits. Called “death benefits” or “dependency benefits,” these sums are available to the worker’s spouse, children, or other dependents who relied on the worker for financial support. (To learn about compensation for injured workers, see our article on New Jersey workers’ comp benefits.)
A worker’s dependents—those who relied on the worker for financial support—are eligible to receive death benefits. The following family members are conclusively presumed to be dependents:
Other family members—such as parents, grandchildren, or adult children—can qualify as dependents on a case-by-case basis. However, the family member must prove that he or she was actually financially dependent on the deceased worker.
Family members generally must be younger than 18 or older than 40 in order to collect death benefits in New Jersey, with the following exceptions:
Death benefits are 70% of the worker’s average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount set by law each year. As of July 1, 2017, the maximum weekly death benefit is $903. This amount is distributed among all of the worker’s dependents. The New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation decides how to divide the benefit among the dependents, in proportion to how much they relied on the worker.
A spouse will receive death benefits until he or she remarries. Upon remarriage, the spouse can receive either the remainder of the weekly benefits due or 100 times the weekly benefit, whichever is less. All other eligible dependents can receive death benefits for a maximum of 450 weeks. Dependents who are still under 18 (or under 23, if a full-time student) at the end of the 450 weeks can continue to receive weekly benefits until they reach 18 (or 23).
The workers' comp insurance company must also pay up to $3,500 for burial expenses incurred by the deceased worker’s surviving family.
Dependents must file a claim petition for death benefits with the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation within two years of the worker’s accident or the last payment of benefits to the worker. It’s important to note that this time limit starts running before the worker’s death.
If you’re having trouble collecting workers’ comp death benefits, you should consult with a workers’ comp lawyer. To learn more, see our article on how much a New Jersey workers’ comp lawyer costs.)