Your loved one died in a work-related accident. You deserve financial stability in the face of this tragedy.
Death benefits provide the dependents of a deceased employee with the means to support themselves after an accident. If you are the surviving spouse or child of an individual who has died at work, you may be entitled to a significant payment. Other beneficiaries who were not dependent on the deceased (such as parents or grandparents) may also be entitled to some funds to ease their loss.
Under Illinois law, there are two main types of death benefits surviving relatives can receive:
- Burial benefits: up to $8,000 to pay for a funeral
- Survivors’ benefits: compensation for lost household income, up to 2/3 of the deceased relative’s weekly wages
We understand that no amount of money makes up for the loss of your relative. But if your loved one died in an accident due to negligence of another person or company outside of their employer, you may be able to file a third-party wrongful death claim. This would allow you to receive compensation for:
- Loss of economic support
- Loss of the relationship with your loved one
- Your grief, sorrow, and mental suffering
- Medical bills incurred before death
This may apply to you if your loved one died in a car accident while on the job, or if work-related machinery took the life of your loved one.
What about minimums and maximums? Can my benefits change over time?
The death benefit maximum is either $500,000, or payments for lost wages extending over 25 years. Lost wages are adjusted yearly for cost-of-living increases (through the Rate Adjustment Fund) and average salary increases for the field your loved one worked in. Benefits generally ensure surviving relatives receive 2/3 of the deceased’s weekly wages, but it’s capped at 100% of the statewide average weekly wage. This means you get a minimum 2/3 of the wages, but are limited to the statewide average income.
Who is entitled?
Anyone who qualifies as a dependent (such as a child or reliant parent) can file for death benefits. If you were in any way legally dependent, or if there were no dependents involved and you are the only remaining relative, you still may qualify. Benefits are paid first to surviving spouses and children under the age of 18. After that, payments go to anyone who is at least 50% dependent, and those payments are reduced accordingly.
Can I sue my loved one’s employer?
Based on Illinois law, it can be difficult to sue a company for damages. In some extreme cases, like wrongful death, it is possible to sue if the employer can be proven negligent.
Here are some additional factors to consider:
- Was the death a direct result of employment? If your loved one had a heart attack at work, it can be hard to prove that it occurred as a direct result of their job. While these kinds of cases can be made, especially if the attack occurred after a particularly stressful work day, they’re harder (but not impossible) to argue. On the other hand, if your loved one was crushed by a forklift, it’s easier to link the job to the resulting death.
- Are you a dependent? While a non-dependent family member may be able to receive some benefits, such as burial benefits or a lump-sum payment, receiving weekly wage supplements requires proof of dependency.
- Is there a third party involved? If your loved one died due to an accident involving a third party, such as a drunk driver, you may be entitled to sue the third party. (This does not mean you can sue the employer.)
Contact the Epstein Law Firm for a free consultation. We’ll help you figure out the best legal course of action following a loved one’s passing.
This post is also available in: Spanish