As horrible as a physical injury claim can be, can you imagine a death claim from a workers’ compensation injury?
When a loved one sets off to go to work with his or her lunch, no one expects that they will be tragically killed on the job and never return home to their family. Such tragedy is completely unexpected and totally changes the course of a spouse’s and family’s life.
As grieving families and spouses process their loss and grief, it may be difficult to consider anything else—particularly their financial situation. However, it’s vital that surviving spouses, dependents and families do not delay in seeking workers’ compensation death benefits, as entitled to them under Arizona law.
What benefits are given for a work-related fatality in Arizona?
Arizona outlines death benefits under A.R.S. 23-1046.
Firstly, burial expenses can be reimbursed/paid to the family, up to $5,000.
Second, there are 3 different categories of death benefits.
1. The estate claim
If there are any medical bills of the last surviving hospitalization medical care, they’re paid by the insurance company, or self-insured or no insurance fund, along with the burial benefits.
2. The spousal claim
The next category of benefits is the spousal benefit. The spousal benefit is two-thirds of the average monthly wage of the deceased worker, if there are no surviving children.
If there is a surviving spouse, as we outlined above, the surviving spouse receives 35% of the average monthly wage until death or remarriage. Upon remarriage, the spouse would receive 2 years of benefits in a lump sum.
3. The dependent (children and parent) claim
The next category of benefits goes to surviving dependents, including children and parents.
If the deceased worker had children under 18, then children—along with the surviving spouse—receive 31 2/3 of the deceased worker’s average monthly wage until those children are 18 years of age. Benefits can be continued if they go for further education until they are age 22 or if they’re incapable of self-support. If incapable of self-support, the benefits continue until the child is capable of self-support.
If a surviving spouse gets remarried, at that point the surviving children then take over the 35% that the surviving parent would have received and the children receive two-thirds of the average monthly wage until they are 18, finish education at 22 or benefits would continue if they are incapable of self-support until they are able to support themselves.
If there is no surviving spouse, the children receive two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average monthly wage. They divide up those benefits equally until they reach the appropriate age of 18, 22 (if they are in school) or over 18 if incapable of self-support. Those benefits would continue until the child is capable of self-support.
Lastly, if there’s a parent, but no surviving spouse or child under 18, and the parent was wholly dependent upon the deceased employee at the time of death for support, then 25 percent of the average monthly wage of the deceased individual goes to the parent.
If there are 2 parents surviving and equally dependent, they receive 15% each. If 2 dependent parents survive and if neither parent is wholly dependent, but one or both are partially dependent, they receive 15% divided between them.
Can siblings of the deceased receive death benefits?
In Arizona, there is a provision for brothers and sisters under the age of 18. If there is no surviving husband or wife, dependent children under 18 or dependent parents, then siblings can receive 25 percent of the deceased’s average monthly wage if they were wholly dependent upon the deceased.
If there’s more than 1 brother and sister, wholly dependent, 35 percent of the average monthly wage is shared between the surviving siblings.
If there is partially dependency, the brothers and sisters can receive 15 percent to divide amongst the dependents.
There is also a provision in Arizona law that if the dependents are partially dependent, the monthly benefits can be “prorata.”
What if a dependent dies before receiving all of the death benefits?
Lastly, in the event of the death of a dependent before the expiration of the time determined in the award, funeral expenses of that person—not to exceed $800—shall be paid.
When to consult an Arizona workers’ comp attorney
As you can see from the mathematical and legal computations above, calculating and distributing death benefits following a workplace fatality in Arizona is somewhat complicated. This confusion is made even more difficult for spouses, children and families who are grappling with the loss of their loved one.
In these situations, it’s wise to consult the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski to find out if you have a claim in which there is a potential death benefit under Arizona law.