The Bollinger Law Firm, P.C.

What benefits can you receive if your loved one dies due to work?

It only takes one accident at a work site to utterly change you life. One moment, you're kissing your spouse goodbye in the morning, and the next, you're having the worst phone call of your life. In the days that follow, you will likely struggle with a host of emotions from denial to anger. You may feel like some things were left undone or unsaid, which can be a source of regret and pain. You may also find yourself worrying about how your family will get by without the primary wage earner's income.

While it's hard to really think about practical matters when dealing with grief, it's important that you tend to them regardless. There is only so much time in which you can file a claim for workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina. If your loved one dies in a work-related accident or succumbs to a medical condition directly attributable to his or her employment, you likely have the right to receive workers' compensation benefits.

What does North Carolina offer for death benefits?

Your spouse's employer must advise the North Carolina Industrial Commission of the death within five days. While those days may be a blur of grieving and planning for a funeral, you or someone acting on your behalf should contact the company to ensure the report gets filed. Once the paperwork has been handled, receiving compensation should be relatively straightforward.

The first benefit, which can help in the immediate wake of your loss, is the payment of burial expenses, up to $10,000. This amount generally goes to the spouse and children. In cases involving unmarried, childless employees, parents, siblings or the person handling the estate of the deceased receives the compensation for funeral and burial costs.

You should also receive at least 500 weeks of compensation payments after the death of your loved one. If the spouse has a mental or physical disability preventing him or her from working at the time their spouse dies, that compensation will continue for life or remarriage of the spouse. Compensation paid to dependent children will continue until they reach the age of 18.

What happens if an employer denies responsibility?

While you may believe that the cause of death is clearly tied to your loved one's work, the employer in your situation may deny responsibility for the death. This can happen both in sudden accidents and in deaths related to work-acquired illnesses.

In these cases, you have the right to request a hearing with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Providing evidence and testimony can help you access the benefits to which you're entitle after workplace fatalities. Medical records, witness statements and security footage from the scene of the accident could all help prove your claim.

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