Every year, hundreds of employees die in work-related accidents across the United States, including in Illinois. Because employers are responsible for keeping their workplaces safe, safety violations are dealt with strictly by agencies under the authority of federal and state law, especially when they are guilty of construction negligence. Beyond that, surviving family members often face serious financial problems when they lose a breadwinner.
So what options do these family members have after a loved one dies on the job? First, there are provisions under Illinois law that can help a worker's spouse and children get financial assistance in the form of survivors' benefits. Both a worker's spouse and children younger than 18 are considered primary beneficiaries of the survivors' benefit. If there is no spouse or children, then benefits can go to the worker's parents if they were dependent on the worker's income. In the event that such dependent parents do not exist, the benefits can go to someone who was at least 50 percent dependent on the worker at the time of his or her death.
How much do survivors get in benefits? A worker's dependents will get two-thirds of the worker's gross average weekly income made during the 52 weeks before his or her death. The worker's family or person paying for the worker's funeral is also eligible to receive a funeral benefit. A benefit of $4,200 is given for injuries that resulted in death before February 1, 2006; $8,000 is provided for injuries that resulted in death after February 1, 2006.
If a surviving spouse remarries and has eligible children at the time of remarriage, he or she will continue receiving survivors' benefits. When there are no eligible children, a remarrying spouse will get a final single payment that is equivalent to two years of compensation.
Filing for survivors' benefits can be a complicated matter. Therefore, it may be best for those considering seeking such compensation to speak with a legal professional.
Source: IWCC.IL.gov, "Handbook on Workers' Compensation and Occupational Diseases," Accessed on Jan. 13, 2014