When an employee dies from a work-related illness or injury, the employee’s spouse, children, and other dependents may be eligible for death benefits under the workers’ compensation laws of South Dakota. These benefits are paid to surviving family members who depended on the worker for financial support. Workers’ comp also pays for burial expenses. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on collecting workers’ comp in South Dakota.)
The surviving spouse and children of a deceased worker qualify for death benefits, under South Dakota law. Children are eligible for benefits:
If there is no surviving spouse or child, the deceased worker’s dependent parent, grandparent, or minor sibling may be eligible for benefits. If there are no surviving family members in any of these categories, then the deceased worker’s dependent collateral heirs may receive benefits. A collateral heir is a relative who is not in the direct line of descent or ascent (such as parents and children), but is instead related through a parallel line, such as siblings, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews.
The total death benefit is generally two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wages. However, the benefit cannot be more than the state’s average weekly wage or less than a minimum amount set by law. Until June 30, 2018, the maximum weekly benefit is $781, and the minimum benefit is $391. The state average is calculated each year on July 1. You can find the current amount by selecting “Compensation and Other Rates” from the workers’ compensation page of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation.
A couple of additional benefits are available:
Death benefits are distributed as follows:
Under South Dakota law, workers’ comp must pay the cost of burial and a gravestone marker for the deceased worker, up to $10,000. Workers’ comp must also pay reasonable transportation costs, if the worker died outside the state or community where burial will take place.
Dependents seeking death benefits or funeral benefits must first notify the employer of the employee’s death, within just a few days. The employer should then file a claim on your behalf; if it does not, you may file a claim directly with the insurance carrier. The insurance carrier may grant your claim and begin paying benefits. If it denies your claim, you must file a petition for a hearing. This petition must be filed within two years of the denial of benefits, or it won’t be allowed.
If the employer doesn’t file a claim for you, or the insurance carrier doesn’t grant your claim, you should consider talking to a workers’ comp attorney. Learn more about how workers’ comp attorneys charge in South Dakota.