Pennsylvania Workers' Comp Death Benefits: Eligibility & Amounts

Learn whether you are entitled to death benefits if a loved one has passed away from a work-related injury or illness.

When an employee in Pennsylvania dies from a work-related illness or injury, the employee’s spouse, children, and other dependents may be eligible for death benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. These weekly benefits are paid to surviving family members who depended on the worker for financial support. Workers’ comp also pays for funeral and burial expenses. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on collecting workers’ comp in Pennsylvania.)

Are You Eligible for Death Benefits in Pennsylvania?

The following family members qualify as dependents who may be entitled to death benefits:

  • a spouse
  • a child under the age of 18, or if enrolled in school full time, under the age of 23
  • a child of any age who is physically or mentally incapacitated
  • parents who totally or partially depended on the worker for financial support, and
  • siblings under the age of 18 (or the age of 23, if enrolled in school full time) or of any age who are unable to support themselves because of disability, as long as they fully or partially depended on the worker for financial support.

How Much Are Death Benefits in Pennsylvania?

Eligible survivors are entitled to weekly death benefits. Benefit amounts are based on the deceased worker’s average weekly wages; the percentage depends on your relationship to the deceased and how many beneficiaries there are, as explained below. Death benefits are subject to a maximum weekly limit, which is adjusted each year based on the state’s average weekly wage. Currently, beneficiaries may not receive more than $1,025 per week. This is the total amount available to all dependents.

  • Spouse and no children. The spouse receives 51% of the worker’s weekly wages.
  • Spouse and children. If the surviving spouse is also the guardian of the deceased worker’s children, the spouse receives 60% if there is one child, or 66 2/3% of the worker’s weekly wages for two or more children. This amount is for the benefit of the spouse and children.
  • Spouse and children with a different guardian. If the deceased worker has a surviving spouse and children who have a different guardian, the spouse and child split 60% (if there is only one child). If there are two or more children, the spouse receives 33 1/3% of the worker’s weekly wages, and the children share 33 1/3%.
  • Children and no spouse. The child’s guardian receives 32% of the worker’s weekly wages if there is one child, 42% for two children, 52% for three children, 62% for four children, and 64% for five children, and 66 2/3% for six or more children. If the children live with different guardians, the total amount is divided equally among the children.
  • No spouse and no children. Any parent to whom the worker was contributing financially will receive 32% of the worker’s weekly wages. A parent who was completely dependent on the worker will receive 52%.
  • No spouse, children, or dependent parents. Any siblings who were dependent on the worker will receive benefits. If there is one dependent sibling, benefits are 22% of the worker’s weekly wages. For additional siblings, 5% more will be paid per sibling, up to a maximum of 32%.

Benefits to surviving children or siblings continue as long as they meet the eligibility requirements set out above. Benefits to dependent parents continue until they die or marry. Benefits to surviving spouses continue until they die or remarry. Upon remarriage, a surviving spouse is entitled to a lump-sum payment equal to two years’ worth of benefits.

Funeral Benefits

Under Pennsylvania law, workers’ comp must also pay the reasonable costs of burial, up to $3,000. This amount must be paid whether or not the worker had dependents.

Time Limits for Filing a Claim

You must notify the deceased worker’s employer quickly—within just a few weeks—to begin the process of getting benefits. The employer must notify its insurance company of the incident, and you should follow up to make sure you understand what you need to do. You must file a petition for benefits within three years of the worker’s death.

If you’re having trouble getting the death benefits you are entitled to, a workers’ comp lawyer can help. See our article on how workers’ comp lawyers charge in Pennsylvania to learn more.

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