Worker deaths in Georgia have climbed over the years, rising to a 2019 high of 207 fatalities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While transportation incidents are the most common cause of death, violence, environmental exposures and falls also lead to fatal occupational injuries.
Many times, a deceased worker leaves behind a family—a surviving spouse, minor children or sometimes an elderly parent—who relied on the individual for support. The Georgia workers’ comp system accounts for this and provides benefits for dependents. But accessing those benefits takes precision and a thorough understanding of Georgia workers’ comp laws.
These are some of the most complex workers’ compensation cases—medically and legally—so it’s important to work with an Atlanta workers’ comp lawyer who focuses exclusively on workers’ compensation and can help ensure the family has the support they need during an incredibly challenging time.
Who is Eligible for Death Benefits?
A worker is eligible for death benefits when he or she dies from an injury that would have been covered by workers’ comp had it not been fatal. The injury must have occurred while the employee was at work. The employer must be subject to workers’ comp laws. And there should be no reason, like worker intoxication, why the claim would have been denied.
While it’s most common to think of tragic on-the-job accidents that result in immediate fatalities, death benefits also apply to workers who are injured and then later die as a result of their workplace injury. For example, if an employee broke a leg during a fall and then later died of a blood clot, it would likely still be considered a work-related death.
Precision in medical diagnoses and documentation is key here. An attorney who understands Georgia workers’ comp laws is best equipped to gather the necessary proof to obtain death benefits.
What Benefits are Available?
After a worker dies, his or her family may be eligible to receive burial expenses and temporary total disability benefits.
For workers without dependents, burial expenses of up to $7,500 are the only benefit available. In such cases, the insurer also pays the State Board of Workers’ Comp half of the benefits that dependents would have been entitled to, or $10,000—whichever is less. This money goes into a general fund.
When workers’ do leave behind dependents, those dependents are eligible to receive indemnity benefits. These are calculated similarly to a non-lethal injury, maxing out at $675 per week, depending on the worker’s pay at the time of the injury (not at the time of death).
If the employee receives workers’ comp payments between the date of the injury and his or her passing, death benefits start on the date of the last payment.
Who Counts As A Dependent?
Georgia classifies dependents into two categories: primary and secondary.
Primary dependents relied on the employee for support. Typically, this means spouses and children. Spouses must be married, not partnered or cohabitating. They are entitled to benefits for up to 400 weeks or to the age of 65, but the benefits end if the spouse remarries or enters into another serious relationship.
Dependent children must be under 18 or under 22 if also a full-time student. Adult children who cannot work due to a physical incapacity are also eligible for support. The system prioritizes legitimate natural children (including those who have been legally adopted). This means that if the deceased employee lived with minor stepchildren and supported them financially but also had natural children, the entire benefit would go to the natural children unless the stepchildren had been adopted.
Secondary beneficiaries include other individuals who may have relied on the worker’s income and can demonstrate that dependency with evidence. For example, if a single worker with no kids lived with his retired parents and paid rent and utilities on their home, they could be eligible for some benefits.
Contact A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Atlanta
If you’ve lost a loved one due to a workplace injury, you need professional help in obtaining benefits. A workers’ comp attorney will help you determine what options are available. Contact the Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera today for a free consultation, or give us a call at 404-991-5097.