When a worker dies from a work-related injury or illness in Wyoming, the worker’s surviving family members may receive death benefits through workers’ comp. These benefits include weekly payments intended to replace the worker’s income, as well as burial and related expenses.
The Wyoming workers’ compensation program is similar to most other states, providing death benefits to the deceased employee’s surviving spouse and dependent children. If the worker died without any spouse or children, benefits go to parents who depended on the worker’s income. The calculation of the benefits is outlined below. (To learn about benefits for injured workers, see our article on Wyoming workers’ comp benefits.)
The surviving spouse of the worker is eligible to receive death benefits for 100 months. The amount of the benefits is based on a percentage of the worker’s wages at the time of death.
The exact benefit depends on how much the worker earned each month compared to the statewide average monthly wage. However, in all cases, death benefits will be at least 80% of the statewide average monthly wage, or 75% of the worker’s actual monthly earnings at the time of his injury, whichever is greater.
The statewide average monthly wage changes twice per year and was set at $3,757 for the second quarter of 2018. This calculation can be complicated, so if you have any questions, you should consult with an experienced attorney.
If there is no surviving spouse, or if a surviving spouse passes away before 100 months of benefits are paid, the worker’s unmarried children under 18 (or under 21 if physically or mentally incapacitated) will receive the award that would have gone to a surviving spouse. Each child’s monthly share is calculated in proportion to the number of months until the child is 18 (or 21 in the case of a physically or mentally incapacitated child).
An additional benefit is available to all of the worker’s dependent children, even if there is a surviving spouse. A monthly benefit of $250 is available to each child until they turn 21, or if they are enrolled as full-time students, until they turn 25. However, children who are physically or mentally incapacitated may receive this monthly benefit until they die or until they are receiving benefits under Wyoming’s Medicaid home and community based waiver program. The worker’s stepchildren may also be eligible for death benefits if they are claimed as dependents and submit proof of custody by the deceased worker. The Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Commission may adjust the amount of this monthly benefit for inflation.
If the worker dies with no surviving spouse or dependent children, the worker’s dependent surviving parents may receive death benefits. The parent must have received at least half of their financial support from the worker at the time of the injury.
Dependent parents are paid for 60 months after the worker’s death, or until the parent dies, whichever happens first. The amount of these benefits is calculated the same way as for a surviving spouse, based on the worker’s actual monthly wages at the time of death compared to the statewide average monthly wage.
Wyoming workers’ comp pays burial expenses, up to $5,000, and an additional $5,000 to cover related expenses, unless there is a preexisting agreement between the deceased worker and the employer. If the worker died without any dependents, the only benefits paid are funeral benefits.
A deceased worker’s survivors must file an application for death benefits within one year from the worker’s death. The claim form is available at the website of the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division. If your claim is denied, or you have questions about your ability to collect benefits, consult with an experienced lawyer. (See our article on hiring a Wyoming workers’ comp lawyer for more information.)