California Workers' Compensation Death Claims
A Guide to Workers’ Comp Death Benefits in California
Fatal workplace injuries climbed dramatically in 2016, rising by 7% over the number of work-related deaths the previous year. While California has consistently had one of the lowest rates of workplace deaths in the United States over the past decade, 376 workers still lost their lives in 2017, in large part because the state acts as the nation’s biggest jobs engine.
Some statistics about workplace deaths in California:
- In 2017, there were roughly 2.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers
- More workplace fatalities occur from July to September than in other seasons
- The age group with the highest number of fatalities from 2013 to 2017 was 45-54 years of age with 354 fatalities
- Transportation accidents were the largest cause of fatal accidents from 2013 to 2017 at 37%
When a worker loses their life on the job, their surviving dependents are entitled to receive benefits under workers’ compensation. Known as “death benefits”, this type of compensation is available to the deceased’s spouse, children or other dependents who relied on the worker for financial support.
At The Bridgeford Law Office, we provide all of our clients with personalized attention throughout the entirety of their claim. Attorneys Mark K. Bridgeford, Gary W. Allen, Rebecca L. Roupe, and Emily C. Peterson always return client calls and maintain direct communication through the entire workers’ compensation death claims process.
Who Is Eligible For Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?
If an employee passes away, their total dependents and partial dependents are eligible to receive death benefits. Total dependents are individuals who completely relied on the deceased for financial support, while partial dependents only partly relied on the deceased for support. According to California law, the following members of the deceased’s family are automatically considered to be total dependents:
- Children under 18
- Children of any age who are physically or mentally incapacitated
- A spouse who earned $30,000 or less in the 12 months before the worker’s death
Other individuals, such as an elderly father or incapacitated cousin, may also qualify as dependents if it can be proven that they relied on the workers for food, clothing and other living expenses.
Generally speaking, any member of a deceased worker’s family who is not a total dependent will be considered a partial dependent as long as they relied on the worker for a certain percentage of financial support.
What Types of Death Benefits are Available in California?
For those who qualify as dependents, they may receive compensation for two different types of benefits: burial expenses and death benefits.
Workers’ Comp Burial Expenses
Workers’ compensation must pay for reasonable burial expenses, with a maximum amount of $10,000. If the death took place before January 1, 2013, the amount is $5,000.
Workers’ Comp Death Benefits in California
The amount of death benefits due is determined by the number of dependents. In California, the amounts paid out are:
- $250,000 for 1 total dependent
- $290,000 for 2 total dependents
- $320,000 for 3 or more total dependents
Death benefits are usually given in installment payments until the full amount is reached, with installments totaling no less than $224 per week. Additional amounts are awarded for partial dependents if there is only one total dependent or less. If there are no total dependents, partial dependents are entitled to an amount equal to four times the annual support they received from the deceased worker.
Benefits for Minor Dependents
Once these limits have been reached, minor dependents will continue to receive periodic payments equal to the amount of weekly temporary disability benefits that the worker would have received if they had lived. These payments can be no less than $224 per week and are split evenly among minor dependents until the last dependent turns 18.
Lost a Loved One? We Can Help
Losing a loved one in a fatal workplace accident can be a devastating experience. At The Bridgeford Law Office, we understand what you are going through and can provide the compassionate representation you need to move forward.
With more than 75 years of collective experience handling California workers’ compensation law, we can help you pursue the full benefits you deserve.