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Understanding California’s workers’ comp death benefits

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2022 | Workers' Compensation |

One of the worst things that can happen to a family is to have a loved one die as the result of a work-related injury or illness. While no amount of money can replace a loved one, California’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) does pay death benefits to spouses, children and other dependents to help them financially.

Families receive up to $10,000 for burial expenses. The rest of their benefits depend on how many dependents a person left behind.

Dependents and maximum payouts

The amount paid goes from a maximum of $250,000 if there’s one surviving family member who was totally financially dependent on the deceased employee to a maximum of $320,000 for three or more people who were completely financially dependent on them. If there’s only one full dependent, partial dependents can also receive death benefits.

The statute of limitations for applying for death benefits is a year after the death (assuming the person died within a year of their injury). Since most families need to start collecting death benefits relatively soon, that’s typically more than enough time.

Can you pursue a wrongful death suit?

However, what if you believe that your loved one’s employer’s actions or negligence were responsible for the injury or illness that took their life? Typically, workers’ compensation laws prohibit people from filing civil lawsuits against employers for injuries.

There was an interesting ruling by a California appeals court earlier this year. A person claimed that she got sick because of her employer’s negligence and then infected her husband, who died. The court rules that the exclusivity provision of the California Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) didn’t prohibit her from suing the employer for wrongful death.

Every situation – and every family – is unique. The important thing is to get the maximum possible compensation to which your family is entitled under the law.

This can make the difference between having enough money to take care of your family in the aftermath of a tragic loss and being financially as well as emotionally devastated. That’s why it’s crucial to seek legal guidance before you sign away your rights to pursue the benefits you need and deserve.