What happens when an on-the-job injury leads to a death in New York?

When a fatal workplace injury occurs in New York, the decedent’s dependents may be eligible for benefits.

It is an unfortunate fact that every year, people in New York lose their lives due to a work-related accident. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 241 fatal injuries across the state in 2014, many of which were due to transportation accidents and falls, slips or trips.

When this occurs, the decedent's dependents may have rights to death benefits through the state's workers' compensation program. It is essential for survivors to understand what those benefits are and how to obtain them.

The situations that are covered

In order for someone to be eligible for death benefits, the decedent must have passed away due to a compensable injury. The death does not have to take place on the worksite, but it must be related to a workplace injury or illness. The law clearly states that if someone is receiving temporary or permanent disability and passes away due to an unrelated cause, his or her dependents would not be eligible for benefits.

Possible recipients

According to state law, the following people may be eligible to receive benefits when someone suffers a work fatality:

  • The person's spouse
  • Minor children and other determined dependents
  • The person's parents
  • The person's estate

The person's parents would only receive benefits if there are no other dependents, and the estate is only entitled to the benefits when there are no dependents or surviving parents.

Benefits available

According to the New York Workers' Compensation Board, eligible beneficiaries would receive weekly cash payments that are equal to two-thirds of the decedent's average weekly salary or wages based on the year prior to the accident. These payments may not be higher than the maximum limit, which is based on statewide average weekly wage, which is adjusted every year on July 1.

When there are no dependents, either the surviving parents of the deceased or the person's estate may be eligible for $50,000. Additionally, the NYWCB states that up to $6,000 for funeral expenses is available in counties surrounding metropolitan New York, and up to $5,000 in other areas.

Length of benefits

The law states that a spouse receiving death benefits will do so for life unless he or she remarries. In that situation, the spouse would receive a lump sum payment equal to two years of benefits, and then the payments would cease. Minor children of the deceased will receive benefits until they turn 18 years old unless they are in school full-time, in which case they would receive benefits until they turn 23 years old.

During this difficult time, it is imperative for families to understand how financial burdens may be eased through collecting workers' compensation benefits. People who have questions about this issue should speak to an attorney in New York.

Problems

Many workers' compensation death claim cases at first glance seem relatively straightforward. And indeed, some are just that. But not all.

As an example, someone may suffer a work related myocardial infarction (heart attack) and die of heart complications three years later. Was the death due to the work-related heart attack or was it the result of an unrelated but serious cardiac condition? A number of death cases happen outside the place of business, perhaps while the employee is on an errand for the employer. But was the errand truly for the benefit of the employer or the employee? Was a stop made along the way?

Supposing the death was completely unwitnessed. For example, the deceased employee is found in the basement underneath a light bulb that needed fixing. Did the claimant die from a fall or did he/she have an unrelated heart attack first which caused the death and led to the fall? These are often difficult questions to answer and there are a number of presumptions under the law that would need to be reviewed.

When there is any workers' compensation hearing, the insurance carrier must as a matter of law be represented at the hearing. The claimant or the claimant's family in a death case does not legally require representation but it doesn't make a lot of sense to go into it alone. The carrier is well represented by competent counsel having the best interests of the carrier at heart. The claimant's representative should have a similar benefit. Silverman, Silverman and Seligman, PC (Silverman Law) has represented claimants and the families of deceased claimants for decades. We've attended tens of thousands of hearings all on behalf of the injured party, never for an insurance carrier though we have been asked to do so. If someone you know has been killed in a work-related accident or activity make sure they level the playing field. Contact Silverman Law at 518-374-3373 for a no cost, no obligation detailed review of the claim. There are no fees payable unless there is a successful outcome. Additionally, it may be that the accident which brought about the death of the employee may also be the subject of a third party action (lawsuit) against someone other than the employer which may provide a lifetime of greatly increased benefits for the employee's family. We are here to help and we are very good at it. Silverman, Silverman and Seligman PC (Silverman Law) 374 - 3373.