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Death Benefits in Workers’ Compensation in Raleigh, NC

Employers must pay a death benefit for a covered employee who dies within six years of sustaining a compensable injury or being diagnosed with an occupational disease or within two years of the final determination of the employee’s disability as part of a workers’ compensation claim, whichever is later.  NC General Statute 97-38.

Benefits include funeral expenses and a weekly stipend to support the worker’s spouse and/or other dependents. However, eligibility for death benefits and the number of weeks of compensation available depends on the family’s circumstances at the time of death. We’ll talk more about that below.

Payments are made for at least 500 weeks. They may continue for children until they reach age 18 or indefinitely for a widowed spouse who cannot support themselves due to a physical or mental disability that existed at the time of the employee’s death. A spouse’s benefits that are continued after 500 weeks end if they remarry.

Often grieving family members do not fully understand what they deserve to receive from workers’ compensation insurance after a loved one’s death. And in many cases, neither the deceased worker’s employer nor their insurer will go out of their way to ensure that the family receives all the benefits they are due. Some may even dispute the validity of the claim.

If you lost your loved one to a job injury or illness, you should consult a workers’ compensation lawyer about recovering the full death benefit you are owed. The Raleigh, N.C. attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., are committed to helping the surviving family members of deceased workers recover all the compensation they deserve. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.

When is a Death Covered Under Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina?

Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance provided by law to most employees in North Carolina. It pays benefits for a death when it is the proximate (most directly connected) result of a compensable injury or occupational disease.

More simply, this means an eligible employee’s death is covered if it arose from their job duties or working conditions and in the scope of their job.

Occupational injuries that lead to death typically result from accidents on the job or in the workplace, such as injuries suffered in a fall, an excavation cave-in, or a motor vehicle accident.

The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act enumerates several illnesses and conditions considered to be occupational diseases. They include “any disease … proven to be due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment, but excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment.”

The circumstances of an employee’s death become an issue if the employer or their insurer argues that the employee was not working when a fatal accident occurred or that the employee’s fatal illness is one that the general public is equally exposed to and was not caused by the deceased worker’s employment. When these disputes arise, the deceased worker’s surviving family members should immediately consult a workers’ compensation attorney.

What Workers’ Comp Death Benefits Are Available in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system pays two primary benefits for an eligible worker’s death:

  • Burial expenses of up to $10,000
  • Wage replacement payments equal to two-thirds (66 2/3 percent) of the average weekly wages of the deceased employee at the time of the accident

Wage replacement benefits are subject to a maximum, or a cap, set annually and a minimum of $30 per week.

Who Can File a Claim for Workers Compensation Death Benefits?

Wage replacement benefits are paid weekly to survivors who were “wholly dependent” economically on the deceased employee at the time of their death. This is typically a spouse and/or minor children but may include dependent parents or siblings. NC General Statute 97-38(1). North Carolina does not recognize common law marriage. The marriage must be solemnized by a recognized officiant, such as a magistrate, minister, or church official.

If there are no wholly dependent survivors, benefits can be split among partially dependent survivors based on how much support they were receiving from the deceased worker before their death. NC General Statute 97-38(2). If no one was wholly or partially dependent on the deceased, the benefits are to be distributed in a lump sum to the next of kin (child, father, mother, brother, or sister, but not a parent who abandoned the worker as a child). NC General Statute 97-38(3).

Get in Touch with Our Professional Workers Compensation Lawyers

The North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. can help you and your family after a loved one’s death due to a workplace injury or illness. Partners Chip Younce and David E. Vtipil are board-certified specialists in workers’ compensation law. David has also been named among the nation’s Top 100 Injured Workers’ Attorneys and has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America in the field of workers’ compensation law.

The Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys of Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. will stand up for your rights if you have lost a loved one to an occupational injury or illness. Our attorneys can fight for you to get the workers’ compensation benefits that North Carolina law says you deserve.

It costs nothing to discuss your eligibility for workers’ comp death benefits with one of our experienced attorneys. Call us now at 919-661-9000 in Raleigh or contact us online. We serve all of North Carolina and will provide you with dedicated legal services and the personal care and attention you deserve.

About the Author

Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A.
At Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., our clients work closely with a legal team that is dedicated to providing outstanding client service and unflinching legal representation. The majority of our attorneys and support staff have worked with our firm for many years.

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