There are few things in life more devastating than the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. Never getting the chance to say one last goodbye or to plan a family member’s final days may truly feel like too much to bear.
The situation can be even more complicated if the death was work-related. Losing out on essential household income can make it hard, if not impossible, to truly grieve your loss, as you may be left to find a way to make up that lost income while also dealing with other related costs. Funeral expenses alone are often more than the average person can afford.
This is why workers’ compensation attorneys are often asked, “Does workers’ comp cover funeral costs?” The easy answer is yes. However, you will also need to know how to go about securing death benefits, how much you are entitled to, and the timeframe you have to complete everything.
Funeral Costs Covered by Workers’ Compensation
If a loved one dies in a work accident or from work-related injuries, surviving family members can receive a maximum of $5,000 for funeral expenses. This can be applied to funeral-related expenses such as:
- Burial Plots
- Funeral Service Fees
This is far from an exhaustive list of funeral expenses, and costs can quickly add up. In America, the average funeral costs anywhere from $7,000 to $9,000, with Mississippi’s average funeral cost falling slightly below at $6,684. The $5,000 in funeral benefits might not be sufficient to cover the cost of an entire funeral, but it can still be essential for families who are dealing with the untimely death of a loved one.
There may also be a concern that funeral expenses are the only compensation families can expect to receive after losing a loved one to a work accident. At Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law, we make sure our clients understand everything they are entitled to.
Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits Explained
Surviving spouses and dependents are also entitled to death benefits other than funeral expenses. For example, Mississippi Code § 71-3-25 requires surviving spouses of workers who have been killed on the job to immediately receive a $1,000 lump sum payment. This payment is not explicitly for covering the cost of a funeral, although it can certainly be used to account for any leftover costs that the $5,000 for funeral expenses did not cover.
Many surviving spouses find this $1,000 to be useful for addressing immediate financial burdens created by the loss of their spouse’s income. This could be anything from covering the mortgage, rent, or utility bills to purchasing groceries and other necessities for the household.
Additional death benefits in the form of a percentage of the victim’s wages may be available to the victim’s:
The wage percentage will vary depending on a number of factors. For example, if a victim of a fatal workplace accident has a spouse but no children, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive 35% of their average weekly wages. If there are any children involved, the household can receive an additional 10% per child, up to 66-2/3% (sixty-six and two-thirds percent) of the victim’s average wages.
Children must be either under the age of 18 and unmarried or age 23 or younger, unmarried, and attending school full-time. Unmarried children who are disabled or otherwise unable to support themselves may qualify for death benefits regardless of age.
In the event that the victim leaves behind children but no spouse, death benefits will be 25% of the average wage for each child, up to 66-2/3% of the victim’s average wages. If necessary, a guardian will be appointed to minor children for the purpose of receiving and managing the benefits.
If death benefits do not reach the aggregate maximum limit of 66-2/3%, siblings and grandchildren might also qualify for compensation if they were considered dependents of the victim at the time of death. Similarly, the victim’s parents or grandparents could also qualify for a portion of the lost wages if they were also dependent on the victim for support.
Figuring out who qualifies for compensation via workers’ compensation death benefits can be confusing in even the best of situations, as there are many factors at play. Working closely with an attorney can help eliminate some of that confusion.
You can receive these death benefits every 14 days for a maximum of 450 weeks, which is just over eight and a half years. During this time, the continued support of a percentage of your loved one’s wages can be invaluable. You might not have the education or the skills to immediately re-enter the workforce following a spouse’s death, and you may need the time during which you receive workers’ comp death benefits to go back to school or find employment in a new field.
Finding the Right Support for Your Journey
There is nothing that can undo the harm caused by a fatal work accident. While your family may grieve and heal, there will always be someone missing from family photos, events, and holidays. The stress created by a sudden loss in income only makes things even more complicated. You and your family deserve better. Workers’ comp coverage for funeral expenses can help.
In Mississippi, you have only a limited amount of time to get your application for workers’ compensation death benefits filed. Gathering evidence, filling out documents, and completing the necessary paperwork is a time-consuming and confusing task, which many families struggle to complete in the wake of an unexpected death.
When you work with Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law, you’ll have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side who can deal with this side of things, and who will always keep you and your family’s best interests at the forefront. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help you through this difficult time in your life. Your first consultation is always free