When a worker passes away from a work-related injury or illness, his or her surviving dependents are eligible to receive benefits through workers’ comp in New Mexico. Called “death benefits” or “survivor 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 Mexico workers’ comp benefits.)
Who Is Eligible for Death Benefits in New Mexico?
A worker’s dependents are eligible to receive death benefits when the worker dies as a result of a work-related injury or illness within two years of the date of the accident.
The following family members might qualify as dependents:
- a spouse living with the worker at the time of death or a spouse who is legally entitled to the worker’s support
- a child under the age of 18
- a child of any age who is incapable of self-support and not married
- a child under the age of 23 if enrolled in school full time at an accredited institution
- a parent or grandparent who was totally or partially dependent on the worker, and
- a grandchild or sibling, but only if under 18 or incapable of self-support and totally dependent on the worker.
How Much Are Death Benefits in New Mexico?
Death benefits are based on a percentage of the worker’s average weekly wage. However, the total benefits paid to all dependents cannot be more than 66 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wage. The benefit also cannot be more than the maximum set by law each year for temporary total disability. For 2018, the maximum weekly benefit is $796.96. (For the current rates, visit the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration’s website.)
Death benefits are paid in the following amounts and order of priority:
- Spouse and no children. If there is a spouse but no dependent children, the spouse will receive 66 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- Children but no spouse. If there are children but no spouse, the children will share 66 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- Spouse and children. If there is a spouse who lives with one or more children of the worker, the spouse receives 45% and the children share 55% equally. If the spouse doesn’t live with any of the children, the spouse receives 40% and the children share 60% equally.
- Dependent parents. If the worker has no spouse or children, but leaves behind a parent who is partially dependent, the parent will receive 25% of the worker’s average wage—but not more than the worker actually contributed to the parent while alive. A totally dependent parent receives 50%. If there are two dependent parents, they share these amounts. Total benefits cannot exceed $7,500.
- Dependent siblings and grandchildren. If there is no spouse, child, or dependent parent, a dependent sibling or grandchild can receive benefits. If there are two dependents, they share 35% of the worker’s average weekly wages. Another 15% is available for each additional dependent, but not more than 66 2/3%. Total benefits also cannot exceed $7,500.
How Long Are Death Benefits Paid?
Death benefits are paid for a maximum of 700 weeks. A spouse can receive death benefits until remarriage, at which point the spouse will receive a lump sum of two years of benefits. Children receive benefits until they turn 18, or if they are enrolled in school full time, until they turn 23. Children who are incapable of self-support will continue to receive benefits regardless of age.
How Much Are Burial Benefits?
Workers' comp also pays for funeral and burial costs up to $7,500.
What Are the Time Limits for a Death Claim?
Dependents must file a claim for death benefits within one year of the worker’s death. You must also notify the employer of the worker’s death within 15 days. If you’re having trouble collecting workers’ comp death benefits, you should call the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration or consult with a workers’ comp lawyer. (To learn more, see our article on how much a New Mexico workers’ comp lawyer costs