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Ohio workers’ compensation death benefits for surviving dependents

Surviving family members of those deceased from work-related injury or illness may be eligible.

All too often, Ohio workers die from work-related injuries or occupational diseases, leaving family members who depended on the workers’ income financially strapped. The Ohio workers’ compensation program provides payments to eligible dependent survivors of such deceased workers regardless of who was at fault for the fatal injury or illness.

If the deceased worker was receiving workers’ compensation disability benefits during his or her life, any unpaid compensation that had accrued at the time of death may be payable to the surviving spouse, dependent children or persons who paid bills related to the death such as funeral or burial costs or who provided such services.

Certain surviving dependent family members may be eligible to receive ongoing biweekly payment of death benefits such as:

  • Surviving spouse who lived with the worker or lived separately because of the worker’s “aggression”
  • Dependent children who are minors
  • Dependent children up to age 25 who attend accredited educational institutions full time
  • Dependent adult children who are physically or mentally incapacitated from working (they may earn up to $2,000 per quarter in a sheltered workshop and remain eligible)
  • Siblings of the decedent
  • Parents or grandparents (natural parents with whom the worker lived are presumed entitled to a minimum of $3,000)
  • Grandchildren

Eligible surviving relatives who were potentially dependent on the worker’s support had he or she lived may also be eligible for up to $3,000 in benefits to be divided among them.

The amount of death benefit is determined based on a complex formula that considers the decedent’s average weekly wage and sometimes potential increase in wages that would have occurred had the worker survived.

Death benefit payments continue until eligibility ends. In the case of a surviving spouse, they continue until death or remarriage, at which time the spouse would receive a lump sum payment worth two years of benefits after which payments stop.

Funeral expenses may be paid as part of the claim to a maximum of $5,500. Even if there are no surviving dependents, reimbursement for funeral expenses can be paid out to persons who covered them for the deceased worker. Certain related medical expenses may also be covered in a death claim.

It is a good idea for a surviving spouse or other potentially eligible family member to contact a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after the employment-related death of a loved one. A lawyer can provide advice and guidance about eligibility, the application and necessary documentation, the amount of the benefit and other issues. There are complex notice and deadline requirements so time is of the essence.

If a death benefit is denied, the applicant has appeal rights about which an attorney can also advise.

Legal counsel can also investigate whether there could be a basis for a wrongful death lawsuit against any third party who may have negligently contributed to the cause of death, such as a manufacturer or seller of defectively designed work equipment or a landlord of work premises that contained a dangerous condition.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, the attorneys at Philip J. Fulton Law Office represent workers’ compensation claimants from across the state.