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California Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits 101

Empty bench on a hill

Workers’ compensation is most commonly used to supply benefits to a worker who was injured on the job. But it can also be used to provide similar yet different benefits to a worker’s family if that worker suffered a fatal injury or illness in the scope of their employment. Such benefits are called “death benefits,” and they should be available to the families of most workers who are covered by a typical workers’ compensation insurance plan.

In California, family members who are eligible to receive death benefits include the deceased worker’s:

  • Children and stepchildren
  • Spouse
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents and in-laws
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Nieces and nephews
  • Certain adult dependents

This list of eligible parties is fairly comprehensive, especially when compared to other states. Eligibility in many other states is limited only to immediate family members.

However, California workers’ compensation law only grants automatic eligibility to minor children and most spouses of the deceased. Other family members like parents and siblings will have to prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased if they wish to make a claim to the death benefits.

Death Benefit Value

In California, death benefits are usually paid as a flat sum to the beneficiaries, including:

  • $250,000 for one dependent or claimant.
  • $290,000 to be evenly split between two dependents or claimants.
  • $320,000 to be evenly split between three or more dependents or claimants.

The amount owed to a dependent will often be paid in monthly payments that can last for years. California law requires that a monthly payment must be at least $896 or the equivalent of $224 per week, though.

Death benefits should also include financial coverage or repayment for “reasonable” burial and funeral expenses. Currently, the maximum that a beneficiary can receive to pay for burial expenses is $10,000. The insurance company can ask to see receipts to understand the reported cost behind a burial or funeral, so good bookkeeping is important.

Statute of Limitations for Death Benefit Claims

Eligible dependents have one year to file a claim to death benefits after a loved one dies from a job-related injury or illness. No claim can be filed after 240 weeks of the injury or illness being first suffered or diagnosed. For example, if a worker suffers a catastrophic injury but survives for 10 years of 520 weeks before succumbing to complications, then no death benefits may be available to the family.

Why Should You Get a Death Benefits Lawyer?

Because California workers’ compensation law handles death benefit claims with flat payment amounts (see list above), it can be tempted to think you do not need an attorney to help with your claim. In some cases, this is true if the insurance company and employer do not complicate matters. However, oftentimes, people find themselves in need of an attorney’s legal services just to make sense of the situation.

You might want to hire a death benefits attorney if:

  • Your claim is being challenged, denied, or delayed.
  • Your weekly payments are unreasonably low for your financial needs.
  • You are not sure if the statute of limitations has expired for your case.

If you have any questions about death benefits in California, then know that Alvandi Law Group, P.C. can help you. Contact us now to begin a discussion with one of our team members.



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