When a worker passes away from a work-related injury or illness, his or her surviving dependents are eligible to receive benefits. Called “death benefits” or “dependency benefits,” these sums are available to the worker’s spouse, children, or other family members who relied on the worker for financial support. (To learn about compensation for injured workers, see our article on Utah workers’ comp benefits.)
Utah presumes that the following family members are wholly dependent on the worker, as long as they lived with the worker at the time of death:
The following family members can also qualify as whole or partial dependents on a case-by-case basis if they can show dependency:
Everyone who is found to be a dependent can receive death benefits.
Death benefits are 66 2/3% of the worker’s average gross weekly wages, up to a maximum amount set by law each year. As of July 1, 2017, the maximum weekly death benefit is $727. (For current rates, visit the website of the Utah Labor Commissioner.) If the worker’s wage is below the maximum, an additional $20 per week is payable to the spouse and each minor child, up to four children. For example, if the worker made $900 per week while alive, the death benefit would be $600 (66 2/3% of $900). If the worker had a spouse and five children, the death benefit would be an additional $100, for a total of $700 per week.
The total benefit amount is divided equally among all dependents of the worker. However, an administrative law judge can divide the benefit in a different manner if appropriate under the circumstances. Also, partial dependents typically receive benefits that are proportionate to how much they relied on the worker for support.
Death benefits are paid for an initial period of 312 weeks. A spouse’s benefits will end upon death or remarriage. In the case of remarriage, the spouse can receive either the remaining balance of the 312 weeks of payments, or one year’s worth of benefits, whichever is less. Benefits for children stop when they turn 18 or graduate from high school, whichever is later. However, incapacitated children can continue to receive benefits as long as they continue to be dependent. Benefits also stop if a child marries or passes away.
After 312 weeks, there will be an annual review to see which family members are still dependent. Minor children are still presumed to be dependent at this point, but spouses are not.
Workers' comp also pays up to $9,000 for funeral and burial expenses.
Dependents must file a claim for death benefits within one year of the date of the worker’s death. You should also notify your loved one’s employer of your claim as soon as possible. The employer should provide you with any paperwork that you need to fill out. If not, you can get help from the Utah Labor Commissioner.
If you’re having trouble collecting workers’ comp death benefits, you should consult with a workers’ comp lawyer. To learn more, see our article on how much a Utah workers’ comp lawyer costs.)