On the job, it is nearly inevitable that injuries occur. From construction sites to office buildings, employees suffer work-related injuries and illnesses every day. In 2015, over 125,000 injuries were reported. Ohio workers’ compensation exists to lessen the suffering of these employees and their families by providing medical care and wage replacement. Unfortunately, sometimes these accidents or illnesses cause the death of an employee. For the families, not only is this a time of tremendous grief, but also of concern for the future. Often, the deceased employee provided income vital to the stability and success of the family. What are the surviving family members to do? It is possible for family members to obtain compensation and other benefits from the workers’ compensation system.
Work-Related Deaths Among Ohio Employees
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 202 work-related deaths in Ohio in 2015, the highest total of any year over the past decade. The illnesses, injuries, and accidents that caused these deaths included:
- Transportation accidents
- Falls, slips, and trips
- Contact with equipment and objects
- Other injuries
Deaths caused by auto accidents, falls, and contact with objects accounted for 75 percent of all work-related fatalities.
Workers’ Compensation Provides Benefits to Surviving Family Members
In Ohio, like many other states across the country, the workers’ compensation system provides benefits when a work-related accident, injury, or illness causes the death of an employee. These benefits are available as both accrued compensation and death benefits. These are:
- Accrued benefits – The worker was receiving workers’ compensation benefits before death, and some payments are still owed up to death. Family members can receive the benefits due to the employee.
- Death benefits – The worker dies as the result of an occupational disease or accident. Family members can file for and obtain death benefit payments that will continue as long as they are eligible.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Ohio Death Benefits?
Only certain family members may obtain the workers’ compensation death benefits, though the system acknowledges that some situations are unique. Eligible family members include:
- Dependent children under the age of 18
- Dependent children between the ages of 18 and 25 if enrolled in school full time
- Dependent children over the age of 18 if physically or mentally handicapped
- Other relatives dependent upon the deceased
Ohio law states that every situation will be examined and dependency will be determined in each case. Benefits can only be obtained, however, by a person who is a member of the family of the deceased worker.
What Are the Death Benefits in Ohio?
Typically, death benefits are similar to the wage replacement received by the injured worker. They are paid every two weeks and are usually equal to two-thirds of the deceased employee’s weekly wage. This payment is divided among the dependents, who receive compensation until they are no longer eligible. Eligibility limits are:
- Spouse – Until his or her death or remarriage.
- Dependent children – Until the age of 18 or the age of 25 if enrolled in school.
- Dependent children with mental or physical incapacity – Until he or she is no longer incapacitated.
And benefits can include payment or reimbursement of funeral expenses of up to $5,500.
Obtaining Benefits After the Work-Related Death of a Family Member
To obtain these benefits, family members have to file a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help family members understand their rights and make sure that all the proper steps are followed to protect the claim. These include:
- Fill out the application for accrued compensation and/or death benefits.
- File form with the BWC.
- Meet with claims service specialist.
- Identify and locate any additional paperwork or testimony for the claim.
- Address an appeal if necessary.
When a loved one dies because of a work accident, injury, or illness, it is a trying and difficult time for any family. Your family need not endure additional and unnecessary financial hardship. Call the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Monast Law Office to learn more about your rights and how you can obtain the benefits you both need and deserve.