When an employee in Vermont dies from an illness or injury that is related to work, the employee’s surviving spouse and dependent children may be eligible for death benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. If the worker has no spouse or children, other family members who were dependent on the worker’s salary may qualify for benefits. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on Vermont workers’ comp benefits.)
The following family members are considered to be dependents who are entitled to death benefits:
If the deceased worker has no spouse or dependent children, other family members—including parents, grandparents, or siblings and grandchildren—may qualify for benefits if they were dependent on the worker’s earnings. A grandchild or sibling must be under 18, enrolled in an approved vocational or education institution, incapable of self-support, or mentally or physically disabled.
Eligible survivors are entitled to weekly death benefits. These benefits are based on the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. However, dependents may not receive more than $1,281, or less than $427, per week. These amounts are adjusted at the beginning of July in every year. (To find the current amounts, select "Minimum and Maximum Compensation Rates" from the Vermont Department of Labor’s worker’s compensation page.)
Family members receive a percentage of the deceased worker’s weekly wages in the following order of priority:
Under Vermont law, workers’ comp must pay for actual burial and funeral expenses, up to a maximum of $10,000, and actual costs to transport the worker to another state for the funeral, up to $5,000. This money is payable to the family members who are eligible for death benefits. If there are no such family members, the employer must pay funeral expenses to the deceased employee’s personal representative.
To qualify for death benefits, you must file a claim within six months of the deceased worker’s death. The deceased worker’s employer or workers’ compensation insurance carrier should be able to provide the necessary forms and information for filing a claim.
If you’re having trouble getting the death benefits you are entitled to, a workers’ comp lawyer can help. See our article on how workers’ comp lawyers charge in Vermont to learn more.