Workers’ compensation death benefits in SC provide some compensation for the families of workers who have been killed on the job.
Last Sunday, an employee of Innovative Fibers in Spartanburg County, SC, was killed after he “became entrapped in a machine.” Will workers’ compensation pay death benefits to his family? Do they have a wrongful death action against the employer or the manufacturer of the machine?
Below, we will discuss how much is paid by workers’ compensation death benefits in SC, how death benefits are different than a wrongful death lawsuit, and how you can file to receive death benefits if your loved one was killed on the job.
Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits in SC
No one expects to go to work and die in service to their employer – a man who was trying to provide for his family has now been ripped away from his family instead. If your loved one has been killed on the job, the last thing you are probably thinking of is whether you have a workers’ compensation claim or a wrongful death lawsuit.
Except there are bills to pay, funeral expenses, and practical considerations as life goes on for the rest of us. Workers’ compensation death benefits may cover some of these expenses and provide some relief from the ongoing financial pain of a loved one’s death, but it will not fully compensate a family for their loss.
How much will workers’ compensation death benefits pay after an employee is killed on the job?
How Much does Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits Pay in SC?
SC code section 42-9-290 provides that, if a death results from an on-the-job accident, workers’ compensation will make weekly payments divided among the employee’s dependents in the amount of 66 and 2/3 percent of the employee’s average weekly wages for a period of 500 weeks and burial expenses up to $12,000.
This applies when the accident is the proximate cause of the death and where:
- The death happens at the time of the accident,
- The death happens within two years of the accident, or
- While receiving total disability payments, the death happens within six years of the accident.
Instead of the weekly payments, workers’ compensation may settle your case with a lump-sum payment, and, in cases where there is a surviving spouse and two or more children, the surviving spouse must receive no less than one-half of the benefits paid.
How Do You File for Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?
You begin the process of filing for workers’ compensation death benefits by submitting a Form 52 (Notice of Claim and Request for Hearing in Death Cases) to the workers’ compensation commission.
Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you with the process of filing for benefits, gathering the evidence you will need to prove your case, presenting your evidence to the workers’ compensation commission, negotiating with the insurance company, and filing any appeals that are necessary.
Are Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits Different than a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
As I said above, workers’ compensation death benefits will not fully compensate your family for their loss if your loved one is killed on their job. Is there anything else that can be done?
With few exceptions, you cannot file a lawsuit against the employer if workers’ compensation covers the accident – that’s the trade off for no-fault compensation.
But you can file a wrongful death suit against any other parties who were responsible for the death – that could include the manufacturer or distributor of a faulty machine that caused the accident, third party vendors, or any person or company whose negligence caused the accident.
Unlike workers’ compensation death benefits, a wrongful death lawsuit, when available, may provide full compensation for:
- Economic losses that are not covered by workers’ compensation,
- Emotional losses like loss of consortium or post-traumatic stress disorder, and
- Punitive damages when the accident was the result of gross negligence on the part of a third-party.
Any person who is killed during the “course and scope” of their employment is entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. In a wrongful death lawsuit, however, we must prove that the defendants were negligent and that their negligence was a proximate cause of the employee’s death.
When Should I Call a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
It is best to contact your workers’ compensation attorney before filing for death benefits – your attorney can then investigate the case, collect any evidence that will be needed to prove your claim, organize your paperwork and evidence, and submit your claim for you.
Although you should contact your workers’ compensation attorney before filing the claim, your attorney can also help if your claim has been denied – there can be a lengthy appeal process that may involve several courts, and your attorney can help you to prepare your case for appeal and argue for a reversal of the commissioner’s decision.
Your workers’ compensation attorney can also ensure that you are not leaving money on the table – if there are third-party defendants who may be liable for your loved one’s death, your attorney can help you to identify those who are responsible and file a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf.
Your SC workers’ compensation attorney at Axelrod and Associates understands the pain that you are going through if you have lost a loved one to a senseless accident on the job. While you focus on healing your family, we can help you to file your claim, investigate the accident, and hold accountable the persons or corporations who caused the accident.