Work-Related Death Benefits in Georgia Explained
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is always overwhelming, but dealing with work-related death benefits makes it even more so.
Sadly, work fatalities occur every day in the United States.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “There were 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2019. […] A worker died every 99 minutes from a work-related injury in 2019.”
OSHA breaks it down further – “On average, more than 100 a week or about 15 deaths every day. About 20% (1,061) of worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2019 were in construction – accounting for one in five worker deaths for the year.”
In addition to construction, nearly 1 in 5 fatal work injuries happened in transportation.
When a loved one dies on the job, the shock of their sudden passing is enough to make you break.
Then, the realization that their loss of life also means a loss of income makes it even more difficult to process.
Work-related death benefits are available to relieve this sudden financial burden – if the deceased victim and you meet certain requirements.
Work-Related Death Benefits – What Are the Requirements to Qualify in Georgia?
First, the employer must have workers’ compensation coverage.
Under Georgia workers’ comp law, any business with three or more workers, including regular part-time workers, is required to have workers’ compensation insurance.
Next, the deceased employee must have sustained the injury that resulted in death at work to qualify for work-related death benefits.
The death has to be deemed work-related, just as with traditional workers’ compensation. For example, an employee who dies from a fall on a construction site will be covered, but an employee who suffers a heart attack while driving home from work may not.
Next, there must be jurisdiction in Georgia (such as the workplace location or the employee is a resident of Georgia).
Finally, if the insurance company believes the deceased employee was killed as a result of willful misconduct, then work-related death benefits may be denied.
What Are Georgia’s Laws Regarding Work-Related Death Benefits?
Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, which means the laws governing work-related death benefits also vary.
Here are the Georgia statutes regarding compensation for death resulting from injury and other causes; penalty for death from injury proximately caused by an intentional act of employer (O.C.G.A. §34-9-265).
If death results instantly from an accident arising out of and in the course of employment or if during the period of disability caused by an accident death results proximately therefrom, the compensation under this chapter shall be as follows:
(1) The employer shall, in addition to any other compensation, pay the reasonable expenses of the employee’s burial not to exceed $7,500.00. If the employee leaves no dependents, this shall be the only compensation;
(2) The employer shall pay the dependents of the deceased employee, which dependents are wholly dependent on his or her earnings for support at the time of the injury, a weekly compensation equal to the compensation which is provided for in Code Section 34-9-261 for total incapacity;
(3) If the employee leaves dependents only partially dependent on his or her earnings for their support at the time of the injury, the weekly compensation for these dependents shall be in the same proportion to the compensation for persons wholly dependent as the average amount contributed weekly by the deceased to the partial dependents bears to the deceased employee’s average weekly wages at the time of the injury; and
(4) When weekly payments have been made to an injured employee before his or her death, compensation to dependents shall begin on the date of the last of such payments; but the number of weekly payments made to the injured employee under Code Section 34-9-261, 34-9-262, or 34-9-263 shall be subtracted from the maximum 400 week period of dependency of a spouse provided by Code Section 34-9-13; and in no case shall payments be made to dependents except during dependency.
(c) The compensation provided for in this Code section shall be payable only to dependents and only during dependency.
(d) The total compensation payable under this Code section to a surviving spouse as a sole dependent at the time of death and where there is no other dependent for one year or less after the death of the employee shall in no case exceed $270,000.00.
(e) If it shall be determined that the death of an employee was the direct result of an injury proximately caused by the intentional act of the employer with specific intent to cause such injury, then there shall be added to the weekly income benefits paid to the dependents, if any, of the deceased employee a penalty of 20 percent; provided, however, such penalty in no case shall exceed $20,000.00. For the purpose of this subsection, an employer shall be deemed to have intended an injury only if the employer had actual knowledge that the intended act was certain to cause such injury and knowingly disregarded this certainty of injury. Nothing in this subsection shall limit the effect of Code Section 34-9-11.
What Are the Benefits?
If your loved one died on the job, you may be entitled to work-related death benefits.
These benefits include covering hospital bills that resulted from a work-related injury.
For instance, if your loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma in the hospital before he passed, workers’ compensation should cover these medical bills.
Workers’ compensation also covers funeral expenses. In the state of Georgia, it covers an employee’s burial up to $7,500. If the burial costs more than $7,500, it will not pay more.
Additionally, work-related death benefits are the same income benefits the victim would have received in life, which is two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage.
Who Qualifies to Receive Work-Related Death Benefits?
The surviving spouse and children of the deceased worker may pursue work-related death benefits.
These are considered dependency benefits.
Generally, the benefits go to those who depended on the deceased for living expenses. (Hence the term dependents.)
There are two types of death benefits beneficiaries: primary and secondary.
Primary beneficiaries: The victim’s legal spouse and minor children. The spouse and victim must have been legally married. Common law marriage isn’t accepted (or legal) in Georgia. If the victim had a dependent child, then that child is entitled to benefits until the age of 18. However, benefits can be extended to age 22 if the “child” remains enrolled in school.
Secondary beneficiaries: If the victim did not have a legal spouse or dependent children, any other party who can prove they were dependent on the victim for at least three months before the death can recover death benefits as a secondary beneficiary.
How Are the Benefits Paid?
Typically, death benefits are paid in installments.
In Georgia, the surviving spouse can receive death benefits for 400 weeks or up to age 65. They take the greater number.
Commonly, however, cases settle for a lump sum amount rather than the insurance company paying weekly benefits all the way to the cap of benefits.
When Do Benefits Terminate?
In addition to having a standard length of time (400 weeks), work-related death benefits can be terminated for different reasons.
If the surviving spouse remarries, the death benefits will end.
If the surviving spouse has a meretricious relationship, one that resembles marriage without a marriage license, the death benefits will cease.
If the surviving spouse passes away, the death benefits will end. They will not pass on to another family member.
I Lost a Loved One to a Work-Related Death. What Rights Do I Have?
As a dependent, you have rights to workers’ compensation if your loved one died in a work-related accident.
You have a right to file a claim to receive work-related death benefits.
You have a right to appeal a denied claim. You also have the right to a hearing to fight death benefits being denied or suspended.
And, of course, you have the right to an attorney.
Why Should I Hire a Workers’ Comp Attorney?
Dealing with work-related death benefits to cover financial loss should not be a priority when you are grieving the loss of a loved one.
You likely aren’t in the right frame of mind to handle the complexities of workers’ compensation law.
An experienced workers’ comp attorney knows how to navigate the ins and outs of this sad and complicated situation to help you get the benefits you need to continue living.
Check out this video below for more reasons why you should hire a workers’ comp lawyer.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.
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