When a worker passes away from a work-related injury or illness, the worker’s surviving dependents are eligible to receive benefits through workers’ comp in Oklahoma. 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 Oklahoma workers’ comp benefits.)
Who Is Eligible for Death Benefits in Oklahoma?
The following family members qualify as dependents:
- a surviving spouse
- a child under the age of 18
- a child under the age of 23 who is enrolled in school full time, or
- a child of any age who is physically or mentally incapable of self-support.
If a worker has no spouse or children, other dependents can qualify to receive benefits.
How Much Are Death Benefits in Oklahoma?
Death benefits are based on a percentage of the worker’s average weekly wage. The most a group of beneficiaries can receive is 100% of the worker’s average weekly wage. However, the benefit cannot be more than the state average weekly wage, which is calculated each year. As of November 2017, the maximum weekly benefit is $843.75. (For the current rates, visit the website of the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission.)
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 70% of the worker’s average weekly wage, as well as a one-time lump sum of $100,000.
- Spouse and children. If there is a spouse and at least one child, the spouse receives the sums mentioned above, and each child receives 15% of the worker’s average weekly wage and a one-time lump sum of $25,000. If there are three or more children, they equally share 30% and a lump sum of $50,000.
- Children but no spouse. If there are children but no spouse, each child receives 50% of the worker’s average weekly wage. However, if there are three or more children, they equally share 100% of the worker’s average weekly wage. Each child also receives a one-time lump sum of $25,000, up to six children. If there are more than six children, they equally share a lump sum payment of $150,000.
- Legal guardians. If the worker has no spouse or children, any legal guardians who were financially dependent on the worker at the time of death can each receive 25% of the worker’s average weekly wage.
How Long Are Death Benefits Paid?
Death benefits are paid to a spouse for life, unless the spouse gets remarried. Upon remarriage, the spouse receives a lump sum of two years’ worth of benefits. Children receive benefits until they turn 18, or if they are full-time students, until they turn 23. However, children who are incapable of self-support will continue to receive benefits regardless of age.
If legal guardians are granted death benefits, benefits are paid for a maximum of five years. However, benefits end sooner if the guardian dies, becomes eligible for social security, or secures full-time employment.
How Much Are Funeral Benefits?
Workers' comp also pays for actual funeral costs for the worker, up to $10,000.
What Are the Time Limits for a Death Claim?
Dependents must file a claim for death benefits within two years of the worker’s death. If you’re having trouble collecting workers’ comp death benefits, you should call the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission
or consult with a workers’ comp lawyer. (To learn more, see our article on how much an Oklahoma workers’ comp lawyer costs