If an employee dies because of a work-related injury in Tennessee, certain family members might be eligible for death benefits through workers’ compensation. Death benefits include weekly payments to help replace the deceased worker’s income, as well as funeral and burial costs. (For more information on other types of benefits, see our article on workers' compensation benefits in Tennessee).
Death benefits are paid to eligible dependents of the worker who passed away due to the work injury or illness. A dependent is someone who relied upon the worker for financial support while the worker was alive. The following family members are conclusively presumed to be totally dependent on the worker:
Unless proven otherwise, the following family members are also considered total dependents:
If the worker did not have a spouse or dependent children, other family members who were totally or partially dependent on the worker might be eligible for benefits, including parents, grandparents, siblings, and parents-in-law.
Death benefits are based on the worker’s average weekly wage prior to the injury. The total amount of weekly death benefits paid to all family members cannot be more than 66 ⅔% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage, subject to the minimum and maximum benefit rates set by the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation each year. The maximum weekly benefit between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 is $902.00. (For a full list of weekly maximums, see the Tennessee workers' compensation website.)
Benefits are paid to the following family members, in the following amounts, in order of priority:
If any of the above family members were only partially dependent, they would be entitled to a reduced death benefit in proportion to how much they depended on the worker.
Based on the date the accident occurred, there is a cap on the total amount of benefits payable. Once that maximum is reached, no further payments are made. For accidents that occur between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, the total death benefits cannot exceed $405,900.
Additionally, death benefits stop for a surviving spouse upon remarriage and for a child when that child turns 18. However, a child enrolled in college can continue to receive benefits until age 22, and a child who is unable to earn a living due to a disability can continue to receive benefits for as long as the disability exists.
The worker's dependent family members or the estate of the deceased worker can receive up to $10,000 for burial expenses.