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