When an employee in Washington dies from a work-related illness or injury, the employee’s surviving spouse and dependent children are 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. These benefits are called a survivor’s pension or survivor benefits in Washington. (To learn more about benefits available to injured workers, see our article on Washington workers' comp benefits.)
In Washington, the worker’s surviving spouse is automatically eligible for survivor benefits. So are the worker’s children, if they are:
If the deceased worker has no surviving spouse or children, other family members—including parents, stepparents, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, half-siblings, nieces, and nephews—might be eligible to receive benefits if they were dependent on the worker’s earnings.
In Washington, eligible survivors are entitled to a one-time payment when their application for benefits is approved. This payment is made to the surviving spouse, the surviving children if there is no spouse, or the surviving dependent parents if there are no surviving spouse and children. The beneficiaries will receive a total payment of the average state monthly wage, currently $4,913. (This amount is current through June 30, 2018; the average state wage is updated every year on July 1.)
Eligible survivors are also entitled to a monthly survivor’s pension. These benefits are based on the deceased worker’s average wage, subject to a cap based on the average state wage for the year. Currently, the maximum monthly benefit amount is $5,895.70 (as of July 1, 2017). This is the total amount available to all survivors combined.
Family members receive the following percentages of the deceased worker’s weekly wages:
Under Washington law, worker’s comp must pay the costs of the deceased worker’s funeral, up to a maximum of twice the state’s average monthly wage. The state’s average wages are calculated every year at the end of June. Currently, the cap on payment of funeral costs is $9,826 (as of July 1, 2017).
To qualify for survivor benefits, you must file an application for benefits within one year of the deceased worker’s death. You will also have to provide documentation of your relationship to the worker, such as a marriage certificate or legal documents regarding child custody, as well as a death certificate.
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 Washington to learn more.