If a loved one dies from a work-related injury in North Dakota, close family members might be entitled to death benefits through workers’ compensation. Death benefits are paid to eligible survivors who relied on the deceased employee for financial support. This article explains who is eligible for death benefits in North Dakota, how much survivors can expect to receive, and how to file a claim, and more. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on how much workers’ comp benefits are in North Dakota.)
Eligible survivors will receive death benefits only if the employee’s death was the direct result of a compensable work injury. What qualifies as a “direct result” depends on the circumstances of the employee’s death. For example, if the employee did not have a disability prior to death, the death must occur within one year after the date of the injury. However, if the work injury caused a continuing disability leading up to the employee’s death, the death must occur within six years after the date of injury.
The employee’s spouse and the guardian of the employee’s dependent children are eligible to receive death benefits. Dependent children include children born in wedlock, stepchildren, adopted children, foster children, children born after the employee’s death (posthumous children), and acknowledged children who were born out of wedlock. One of the following requirements must also be met:
However, married children are not eligible for benefits unless they can prove by their prior year’s tax returns that they depended on the employee financially.
If the employee does not leave behind a surviving spouse or any dependent children, the employee’s nondependent children, parents, brothers and sisters, or grandparents might be eligible for benefits.
The surviving spouse or guardian of the employee’s dependent children will receive weekly payments equal to two-thirds of the employee’s gross weekly wages. However, the payment cannot be less than 60% or more than 125% of the state average weekly wage. (For the current minimums and maximums, see the North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance’s weekly benefit chart.) Each dependent child will receive an additional $15 each week, which may be paid directly to the child or to the surviving spouse or guardian.
Additionally, the spouse or guardian will receive a one-time payment of $2,500 and each dependent child will receive a one-time payment of $800. If there is more than one guardian, the $2,500 must be divided equally among the children and paid to the guardians.
Weekly payments will continue until the spouse dies or until the children are no longer considered dependent. If there is more than one guardian the benefits will be divided equally among the children and paid to the guardians. However, total death benefits (including all of the amounts mentioned above) may not exceed $300,000.
If there is no spouse or dependent child, a lump sum of $15,000 is paid to family members in the following order of priority:
If there are multiple eligible survivors in one of the classes above, the lump sum will be distributed equally among them.
Workers’ comp pays for burial expenses up to $10,000 to the facility handling the arrangements.
Claims for death benefits in North Dakota must be filed within two years of the employee’s death. Notify the employer as soon as possible and then file your claim with North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI), the state agency responsible for insuring employers, reviewing claims, and paying benefits.
If WSI denies your claim you may submit a written request asking the agency to reconsider its decision. But you must do so within 30 days of receiving the Notice of Decision. The next step if WSI still denies your claim is requesting a hearing before a workers’ comp judge. You will probably need the help of an experienced workers’ comp attorney at this stage. (To learn more, see how much a workers’ comp lawyer costs in North Dakota.)