This is the second of a two part blog on death claims in NC workers’ comp.  Part 1 addressed which work related deaths are covered and how to file a claim.  Part 2 deals with what the benefits are. who receives them and what happens when an employee dies of unrelated causes while benefits are owed.

Beneficiaries:  Who receives the Benefits?   Determining who is entitled to receive the benefits is one of the most challenging aspects of a NC workers’ compensation death claim.  The rules are complex and riddled with exceptions.  However a few key principles are worth noting.

If there are people who were “wholly dependent” on the deceased employee’s earnings  then those people share the death benefits equally, to the exclusion of everyone else.  When there is only one person wholly dependent upon the deceased worker at the time of death that person takes all the benefits that are payable.  Otherwise, all whole dependents share equally in the death benefit.

A widow, widower and a minor child of a deceased employee are “wholly dependent” as a matter of law. “Widow” and “widower” mean the decedent’s spouse who is living with or dependent on the deceased employee for support at the time of death, or living apart for justifiable cause or by reason of desertion.   A child includes offspring under 18 years of age and includes a posthumous child and an adopted child.  Child also includes a stepchild and an acknowledged illegitimate child that is dependent upon the deceased.  Other claimants to workers’ comp death benefits in NC must prove actual, total dependency on the deceased employee at the time of death in order to receive death benefits as a “wholly dependent” person.

When an employee dies leaving no persons wholly dependent then any person or persons partially dependent are entitled to weekly the death benefits, based on the amount of support provided them by the decedent.   If there are no whole or partial dependents the benefit that would have been paid had the decedent left dependents is distributed in lump sum to the “next of kin.”  If the deceased employee leaves neither dependents nor “next of kin” then only the burial benefit is paid.  

Payment of Benefits.   Benefits in death claims, as in other workers’ compensation claims in North Carolina, are generally paid weekly.  The amount of the weekly death benefit payment is two-thirds of the deceased employee’s Average Weekly Wage.  Burial expenses are paid up to $10,000.   Death benefits are payable for a minimum of 500 weeks.  A minor child receives benefits until the age of 18, even if that is more than 500 weeks.  A deceased employee’s widow or widower who is disabled at the time of the worker’s death receives benefits until his or her death or remarriage, but not less than 500 weeks. When the beneficiary of a death claim is a minor or is incompetent the Industrial Commission will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interest.  There are special rules for the distribution of asbestosis and silicosis claims.

If you have questions about death claims in NC workers’ comp, please call or email for your free consultation with a Board Certified Specialist in NC workers’ compensation law.

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