Can I Get Benefits If a Family Member Died at Work in Washington State?

The unexpected death of a loved one is a devastating event. When a family member passes away because of an employment-related accident or injury, this senseless incident can upend your life. Not only must you cope with the emotional trauma of this sudden death, but you may struggle with the abrupt loss of income you and your family relied on to make ends meet. Although nothing can bring your loved one back, there are steps you can take in the wake of this tragic event to secure the financial compensation you need to start putting your life back together. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) allows family members to receive compensation when a loved one passes away while on the job or dies because of a condition related to an industrial injury or occupational disease. While you are not obligated to enlist the guidance of a Seattle worker’s compensation lawyer to file an L&I claim or pursue a wrongful death claim against a negligent third party, taking this step is highly encouraged—especially during such an overwhelming and disorienting time. Your wrongful death attorney will assess the details of your case to identify the most strategic path forward that maximizes the compensation you are able to recover to support you and your loved ones during this challenging time. This post will explore the steps involved in filing for job fatality benefits for L&I claims and how working with a dedicated and experienced worker’s compensation attorney can help you move forward as smoothly and securely as possible.

Understanding Fatality Benefits For L&I Claims in Washington State

Unfortunately, work-related accidents that prove fatal can and do happen in Washington State. As you grapple with this tragic loss, it’s essential to understand that surviving family members cannot sue the employer for the wrongful death of their loved one. L&I benefits are all you can receive from the employer. However, if a third party (not a co-worker, either) was responsible for your loved one’s death, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.

Whenever a fatal workplace accident takes place, this tragic incident triggers a series of steps. Surviving family members of the deceased worker can expect to navigate the following steps when pursuing L&I benefits for the death of their loved one from a workplace accident or from a condition related to an industrial injury or occupational disease that later takes their life.

Employers Report the Work-Related Fatality

Whenever a fatal workplace accident occurs, the employer must report the incident to the nearest L&I office or notify the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) within eight hours of the event. DOSH will then complete a fatality memo, and determinations will be made as to whether an autopsy is warranted. If there is any question about what caused the worker’s death, an autopsy may be ordered to shed light on this matter.

Filing for Fatality Benefits

The deceased worker’s surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, or dependents may submit an application for benefits within one year of the individual’s death due to workplace injury. If their death was caused by an occupational disease, the surviving spouse has two years in which to file a claim, dating from when they received written notification from a physician that an occupational disease caused their death. When you fill out the claim for death benefits, you will need to include several supplemental documents, including a copy of the marriage certificate or declaration of registered domestic partnership, a copy of the death certificate, birth certificates for dependent children, letters of guardianship or custody order, and proof of full-time enrollment in an accredited school for any children between the ages of 18 and 22.

What Types of Job Fatality Benefits Can I Receive?

As you put your L&I claim together, you will want to understand the types of job fatality benefits you may be entitled to recover. Under RCW 51.32.050, the surviving partner of a worker who suffers a fatal accident while on the job may be eligible for several benefits. Below are some of the death benefits you may be able to receive after filing an L&I death benefits claim in Washington State.

Immediate, One-Time Cash Payment

If a worker suffers a fatal industrial injury or occupational disease, their spouse, registered domestic partner, child, or dependent may be able to obtain a one-time immediate payment upon their loved one’s death. The amount of this immediate payment is calculated at 100 percent of the average monthly wage in Washington State.

Burial Benefits for Fatalities Related to Industrial Injuries

When a death occurs that is related to industrial injury or occupational disease, the surviving spouse or dependent may receive a burial benefit that is calculated up to 200 percent of the average monthly wage in Washington State. If you’re interested in learning more about how to secure this benefit, reach out to a trusted and highly qualified Seattle worker’s compensation attorney today.

Monthly Survivor Benefits

Washington State recognizes the financial challenges suffered by those who lose a working family member in a sudden and unexpected incident. The amount of the monthly survivor benefit you are entitled to receive varies depending on your relationship to the deceased worker. Surviving spouses or registered domestic partners of a deceased worker may receive 60 percent of the wages at the time of injury (up to the maximum amount allowed by law). If the deceased left behind minor children, an additional two percent per child is owed (up to an additional maximum of 10 percent).

When the deceased worker leaves behind no eligible spouse or registered domestic partner, the guardian of a minor child will receive a monthly benefit of 35 percent of the worker’s wage. An additional 15 percent of the wage is paid to cover each additional child (with a maximum benefit equal to 65 percent of the worker’s wage at the time of injury). In instances involving more than one child, the benefits are divided equally among the children.

Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim in Washington State

When someone passes away due to a workplace accident or because of an occupational disease, their loved ones may file a claim with L&I to receive benefits that ease the financial toll of this sudden loss. However, there are situations where a negligent third party contributed to your loved one’s death. For example, the manufacturer of defective machinery may be held legally and financially responsible for failing to ensure the safety of their products—an oversight that led to your loved one’s death on the job. Or, if your loved one was on the road for work and died in a car accident caused by another driver, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit against this third party. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent third party to recover the compensation you need and deserve. Reach out to a trusted and experienced Seattle wrongful death lawyer today to get started.

If you lost a loved one in a work-related incident, you may be eligible to receive certain benefits to account for this devastating and unexpected loss. Reach out to Scott & Scott, PLLC, today by calling (206) 622-2200 to speak with a knowledgeable and experienced Seattle wrongful death attorney.

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