Tampa Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
A fatal work accident can be an immeasurable loss to the family members left behind, especially when the worker was the sole or primary breadwinner for the family. Florida workers’ compensation insurance provides a package of benefits to help family members deal with the direct expenses and other challenges they must cope with after a loss. You would hope that the worker’s employer and their workers’ comp insurance carrier would be sympathetic at a time like this, but workers’ compensation death benefits can be expensive, amounting to $150,000 or more. In the face of this liability, expect the employer and insurer to look hard at the workers’ comp claim and use any means at their disposal to say the death was not work-related or otherwise compensable under workers’ compensation.
Below we describe the types of benefits available after a fatal workplace accident, injury or illness. If you need help getting the benefits you are owed, call Franco Law Firm at 813-872-0929 for a no-cost consultation with an experienced and dedicated Tampa workers’ compensation death benefits lawyer.
What Death Benefits Are Payable Under Florida Workers’ Compensation?
According to Florida workers’ compensation law, the employer is required to pay death benefits for any death that results from a workplace accident within one year after the accident. It is important to understand that the death does not have to be instantaneous at the time of the accident; if the worker dies within a year of the accident and the death is linked to the accident, the employer is liable for workers’ comp death benefits. The same is true for a death that follows up to five years of continuous disability after an accident. In either case, the employer and their insurance carrier might try to argue that the death is not connected to the accident, especially if the accident happened months or years before. This is a crucial issue, and it is one our Tampa workers’ compensation death benefits attorneys can help you establish.
Death benefits include up to $7,500 for actual funeral expenses, which must be paid by the employer within 14 days after receiving the bill, along with compensation to family members who were dependent on the deceased worker. As discussed below, the law spells out which family members can receive compensation and in what order of preference. These benefits can be up to two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage and can total up to $150,000.
A surviving spouse can receive 50% of the worker’s average weekly wage for the remainder of the spouse’s life, assuming there are no children. If there are children, then the spouse receives the 50% plus an additional 16 2/3%. However, the workers’ compensation judge could order the entire amount to be paid to the children instead of the spouse if the judge deems it just and proper and in their best interests. A spouse who later remarries is entitled to a lump-sum payment equal to 26 weeks times 50% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage.
If there is no surviving spouse or after the death of the surviving spouse, surviving children can each receive one-third of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. Children can continue to receive weekly benefits until they turn 18 years old or up to age 22 if they are enrolled full-time in an accredited educational institution, or until they marry. Children with special needs who are physically or mentally incapacitated from earning a livelihood can continue to receive benefits past the age of 18.
If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the worker’s parents can each receive 25% of the worker’s wages for so long as they remain dependent on these benefits.
If there are no surviving spouse, children or parents, the brothers, sisters and grandchildren can each receive 15% of the worker’s wages up to the two-thirds maximum.
Educational Benefits to a Surviving Spouse
Florida workers’ compensation death benefits also include educational benefits payable to a surviving spouse. These benefits include payment of postsecondary student fees for up to 1,800 classroom hours at a career center or up to 60 semester hours at a community college. If the worker was a state employee, the spouse can receive a full waiver of fees.
This educational benefit lasts for up to seven years after the worker’s death or earlier if the $150,000 maximum benefit has been paid out. To qualify for the educational benefit, the spouse must meet the institution’s admissions requirements and maintain satisfactory academic progress as defined by the institution.
Contact the Franco Law Firm Today
If you lost a loved one to a fatal workplace accident, illness or occupational disease, Franco Law Firm can help you get all the workers’ compensation benefits available to help you through this difficult time. Contact our dedicated Tampa workers’ compensation death benefits lawyer today for answers to your questions over a free consultation.