South Dakota Workers' Comp Death Benefits: Eligibility & Amounts

When an employee passes away due to a work injury, certain family members can receive death benefits through workers' comp in South Dakota.

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.)

Eligibility for Death Benefits 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:

  • until they turn 18
  • until they turn 22, if they are enrolled in school full time, or
  • for life, if they are mentally or physically incapable of supporting themselves.

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.

Amount of Death Benefits Available in South Dakota

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:

  • Dependent children under 18 can receive an additional $50 per month on top of their share of the weekly benefit described above.
  • The worker’s surviving spouse and children are eligible for an annual scholarship of up to $2,000 while attending an accredited post-secondary school in South Dakota. This benefit is available for five years.

Death benefits are distributed as follows:

  • Surviving spouse only. If the worker leaves a spouse and no children, the spouse receives two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage until death or remarriage. In the case of remarriage, the spouse receives a lump sum of two years’ worth of benefits.
  • Surviving spouse and children. If the worker leaves behind a spouse and children, the family will receive two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage plus $50 per month for each child under the age of 18. If any children are not in the custody of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives half the death benefit and the rest is paid to the surviving children in equal shares, for as long as they are eligible. If the children become ineligible (for example, because they turn 18), and the spouse remains eligible for benefits, the full death benefit reverts to the spouse.
  • Surviving children only. If the worker leaves only children and no spouse, the children receive two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage for as long as they are eligible. They also receive the additional $50 per month per child under the age of 18.
  • Dependent parent, grandparent, or minor sibling. If the deceased worker has no surviving spouse or children, the worker’s dependent parent, grandparent, or minor sibling may be eligible for benefits. These beneficiaries are entitled to a percentage of the total award equal to the percentage of the worker’s wages they received during life. If, for example, the worker paid his parent 10% of his weekly wages and the weekly death benefit is $700, the parent would be eligible to receive $70.
  • Other collateral heirs. If the deceased worker left none of the family members listed above, other collateral heirs who were dependent on the worker’s earnings may qualify for benefits. These heirs also receive a percentage of the total award equal to the percentage of the worker’s earnings they received.

Funeral Benefits Available in South Dakota

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.

Time Limits for Filing a Claim

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.

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