Tennessee Workers' Comp Death Benefits: Eligibility & Amounts

Find out who is eligible for workers' compensation death benefits in Tennessee.

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).

Which Family Members Are Eligible for Death 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:

  • a spouse, unless the spouse was voluntarily living apart from the worker at the time of the injury, and
  • any child under the age of 16.

Unless proven otherwise, the following family members are also considered total dependents:

  • any child between the ages of 16 and 18 (or until age 22 if enrolled in a college or university), and
  • any child who is incapacitated from working because of a disability.

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.

How Much Are Death Benefits in Tennessee?

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 there is a spouse and no dependent children. The surviving spouse would receive 50% of the worker's average weekly wages per week.
  • If there is a spouse and one or more dependent children. The surviving spouse would receive 66 % for the benefit of the spouse and the children. However, the court may order a percentage of the benefit to be paid to a guardian of the children, if needed.
  • If there is no spouse, but one or more dependent children. If there is one child, the child will receive 50% of the worker's average weekly wage. If there are two or more dependent children, the children will equally share 66 %.
  • If there is no spouse or dependent children. If the worker had one parent who was totally dependent, the parent would receive 25% of the worker's average weekly wage. If the worker had two dependent parents, then they would share 35%.
  • If there is no spouse, dependent children, or dependent parents. If the worker had one totally dependent grandparent, sibling, or parent-in-law, that dependent would receive 20% of the average weekly wage. If the worker had two or more such dependents, they would share 25% of the average weekly wage.
  • If the worker did not have any dependents. In that case, $20,000 is paid to the worker’s estate.

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.

When Death Benefits End

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.

Benefits for Burial Costs

The worker's dependent family members or the estate of the deceased worker can receive up to $10,000 for burial expenses.

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