Compensation for a Death at Work in California

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Workers’ compensation will pay a death benefit to the spouse or minor children when an employee dies because of a work-related injury. First, you must show that the injury that caused the death resulted from work.

If you have a complex workers’ compensation claim, contact the Beverly Hills workers’ compensation attorneys at the One Law Group to learn more about your legal options. Depending on the options, you may file a lawsuit that can pay you more instead of a workers’ compensation claim.

Families Can Receive Compensation When Their Loved One Died from a Work Injury

California law does provide workers’ compensation benefits for job-related fatalities. First, if your loved one received medical care between the time of their injury and death, workers’ compensation insurance will need to cover those expenses.

The most important part of workers’ compensation death benefits that your family will need is the lost wages that your loved one will have earned had they continued to work. Under California law, your family will be entitled to the following amount (for injuries that occurred after 2013):

  • $250,000, if there is one total dependent (a spouse is only considered a total dependent if they earned $30,000 or less in the preceding 12-month period – otherwise, the spouse is a partial dependent who can receive eight times the annual support level with a cap of $250,000)
  • $290,000, if there are two total dependents
  • $320,000, if there are three or more total dependents
  • $10,000 for burial expenses

In addition, if there are minor children, each will receive a monthly payment until their 18th birthday in the amount of the total temporary disability rate. The minimum payment to the minor is $224 per month. A disabled child will receive payments for the rest of their life. The family has one year from the time of the death to file for the death benefit.

The amount of the death benefit has not changed since 2013, even though inflation has increased significantly since then. One of the drawbacks to death benefits is that the amounts listed above are caps. The death benefit is not paid all at once. Instead, they are paid weekly at the total disability benefit rate.

While the workers’ compensation death benefit is helpful, it will not come close to replacing the money that your loved one earned.

California Workers’ Compensation Claims Are Independent of Fault

Workers’ compensation is not a negligence-based system. In a workers’ compensation claim, you will not need to show that anyone was at fault for the accident. Even if your loved one was careless or at fault for the accident that took their life, the family might still receive a workers’ compensation settlement.

In a wrongful death case, you must show that someone was at fault for your loved one’s death. Negligence is the legal standard in a wrongful death case, meaning you must prove that someone acted unreasonably under the circumstances.

Wrongful Death Claims Are Usually Worth More Money

In California, wrongful death claims will mean more compensation than workers’ comp death benefits for your family. In a workers’ compensation claim, you will receive a portion of the deceased person’s compensation that they would have earned had the accident not happened. In addition, your family can receive funeral and burial costs.

In a wrongful death case, your family can receive the following:

  • The full value of the wages that your loved one will have earned for the rest of their career
  • Compensation for the loss of the guidance, love, support, and companionship that the deceased person provided
  • Payment for the grief and emotional trauma that your family endured when your loved one died

You May Not Always Be Able to File a Wrongful Death Benefit

It will seem that every family will want to file a wrongful death lawsuit as opposed to a workers’ compensation claim. However, your employer is largely protected from a personal injury lawsuit for work-related injuries with very few exceptions.

Your attorney will need to investigate the accident’s circumstances to learn whether any potentially responsible third parties can be sued. Here are some circumstances in which your family can file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Your loved one died in a work accident caused by defective work tools.
  • Your family member lost their life in a traffic accident when on the road for their job.
  • The actions of a subcontractor or another contractor on a job site caused the fatal accident.

You can receive a workers’ compensation settlement while a wrongful death case is pending. If you win your wrongful death case, you will need to pay back the insurance company for the settlement amount. An attorney can explain which option best fits your case after you speak with them.

Contact a Beverly Hills Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today

Our workers’ compensation attorneys in Beverly Hills at One Law Group can evaluate your case and help you determine the legal path forward if your loved one died from a work-related injury. We can investigate and let you know if you have a potential lawsuit against a third party.

If you file a workers’ compensation claim, we can assist you with the process. We offer free consultations to prospective clients. You can speak with an attorney by calling us at (844) 563-1641 or by messaging us online.

Fatal Work Injury FAQs

What can I do if my workers’ compensation claim is denied?

You can file an appeal that will be heard by an administrative law judge if you cannot resolve the matter with the insurance company.

What if a loved one died from the injury after they were previously receiving workers’ compensation benefits?

The claim will be converted to one for death benefits, and the above rules will apply.

What would happen if my loved one was an independent contractor?

Workers’ compensation does not cover independent contractors, but there is a possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit if someone was negligent.

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