When someone dies from a work-related injury or illness, the worker’s family members may be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits from the state of New York. These death benefits are available to help support loved ones who depended on the deceased worker’s income, and to help pay funeral costs. (To learn about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on New York workers’ comp benefits.)
Certain family members of the deceased worker are always eligible for benefits. These family members include:
If the deceased worker doesn’t have a spouse or children who meet the above definitions, the following family members might be eligible for benefits:
Death benefits are generally paid weekly, based on a percentage of the worker’s average weekly wage. Dependents can received a combined total of 66 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wage, subject to a maximum weekly benefit set by law each year. The current maximum benefit payable is $870.61 per week; see the New York Workers’ Compensation Benefits page to find the current cap.
The amount of death benefits available depends on which family members are claiming benefits:
If the deceased worker has no spouse, child, or dependents according to the definitions described above, the worker’s parents will receive a lump sum of $50,000 (regardless of whether they relied on the worker for financial support). If the deceased worker has no surviving parents, this amount will be paid into the worker’s estate.
Workers’ compensation must pay for the actual costs of the worker’s funeral, up to a current maximum of $12,500 in the metropolitan New York counties (New York, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Nassau, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester). For all other New York counties, the maximum funeral benefit is $10,500. For firefighters and police officers who die from injuries suffered in the line of duty, no maximum applies: Workers’ comp will pay the full funeral expense, as long as it’s reasonable.
Funeral benefits must be paid whether or not there are any dependents to receive death benefits. For example, if a worker died with no spouse or other eligible dependents, the worker’s adult sister could apply for benefits to pay for his funeral. She would not have to prove that she was financially dependent on the worker to get these benefits.
You may claim death benefits and/or funeral benefits by filing a state form called Claim for Compensation in a Death Case. You will also have to file supporting documents, such as a death certificate and proof of your relationship to the deceased worker. The worker’s treating physician must also complete a form, certifying that death was caused by work or a previous work-related injury.
You must notify the employer within 30 days that the deceased worker has died. Claims for benefits must be filed within two years of death.