Workers Compensation Death Benefits

What are death benefits?

Death benefits are generally a fixed amount, so you may not need an attorney. Our office is typically needed only in limited circumstances: when the work comp death benefits are denied, when there is a third party claim or when the workers compensation insurance company does not recognize a legal dependent. When we are contacted by a dependent that has been offered the maximum amount available under the Tennessee Workers Compensation Act, we can usually confirm the benefits due with the dependent and let them know that paying an attorney is not necessary. If, however, a dependent can benefit from our services we can also explain how and why.

In general, if an employee dies as the result of a work accident, the widow, widower or a dependent are entitled to a sum between 50% of the employee's average weekly wage. This amount is capped at the applicable maximum compensation rate. This maximum rate changes depending on the date of death.  If the worker leaves behind a widow/widower and at least one dependent, the beneficiaries are entitled to 66 2/3% of the average wage or maximum compensation rate. The benefits are generally paid out on a biweekly basis until the maximum amount if reached, the spouse remarries or the child reaches their eighteenth birthday (or 22 years old if they are enrolled in a recognized educational program).  It is important to note that the dependent does not have to be a biological child but can simply be a person that was financially dependent on the employee. This is often a point of dispute in these cases. Finally, if the employee leaves no dependents behind, then there is to be a $20,000.00 lump sum payment to the estate. The employer is also required to pay burial expenses and any medical expenses incurred prior to the death.


This is often the most complicated and important issues in a workers compensation death case. This is because the number of dependents can impact the value of the case.  Minor children or a spouse living at home are almost always considered  legal dependents under the workers compensation act.  In fact, per statute children under 16 years old are deemed actual dependents and children between (16) and 18 are presumed dependents.  However, there are often times other family members such as parents or other relatives that may have been dependent on the deceased worker.  If that is the case, then the value of the benefits under the work comp act may increase.  As such, its is important to consider any persons that may have been dependent on the worker when pursuing the case.  


As always, it is important to consider whether a party other than the employer may have been responsible for the worker's death.  This is especially true in workers compensation death cases as the benefits are so limited under the Tennessee Comp Act.  Accordingly, if you believe the death occurred as the result of the negligence of someone outside the company or a product defect you should contact an experienced workers compensation attorney as soon as possible.  It is very important that any evidence of the third party's fault be gathered and secured as soon as possible.


If you have questions regarding benefits available for the death of an employee feel free to contact our office. You may not need an attorney, but it is important to know that you are receiving the maximum benefits available before you resolve the workers compensation claim.