North Carolina Workers’ Comp Death Claims & Benefits
The death of a family member due to a workplace injury or occupational disease is a tremendous loss for those who are left behind. Along with unimaginable grief, the victim’s survivors may also face significant financial hardships in the wake of their loss, especially if the deceased was the primary breadwinner. Fortunately, North Carolina workers’ compensation law allows eligible survivors to obtain death benefits during their time of need.
Although applying for death benefits may seem straightforward, there are several places along the way where claims can get hung up. The insurance company may deny the claim or refuse to pay the full amount that survivors are owed. If you’ve lost a loved one, this is not a fight you should have to undertake alone. A North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney from Stewart Law Offices can handle your claim for death benefits so that you can mourn in peace.
Stewart Law Offices has successfully represented clients in workers’ comp claims in both Carolinas for decades. Our compassionate Charlotte legal team will take care of every aspect of your claim and fight for the maximum amount of death benefits you deserve.
Learn more about how we can help in a free consultation. Call or contact us online today.
Is Wrongful Death Covered Under N.C. Workers’ Comp?
If someone is killed on the job, the North Carolina workers’ compensation system provides death benefits to qualifying family members. This is not the same thing as a wrongful death action. Here’s the difference:
Workers’ comp benefits are paid regardless of fault. Family members don’t have to prove that someone else’s wrongdoing caused the death in order to receive benefits. But in exchange for no-fault death benefits, family members cannot file a lawsuit against the employer in most cases.
Wrongful death claims are allowed for a worker’s death when another party (not the deceased’s employer) is responsible for the death. For example, if a faulty ladder collapsed and a worker fell to his/her death on the job, the manufacturer of the defective ladder could be sued in a wrongful death claim.
The advantage of workers’ comp death benefits is that you don’t have to prove your loved one’s negligence did not contribute to his or her death. The downside is that workers’ comp doesn’t pay for pain and suffering or other intangible losses, such as lost enjoyment of life, loss of support, and more.
Alternatively, the advantage of a wrongful death lawsuit is that the ultimate amount of compensation awarded can be higher, in part because you are able to collect compensation for pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages. You also may be awarded punitive damages, which can further increase the amount you collect. The disadvantage is that the burden will be on you to prove the other party’s negligence and how it has damaged your life.
Wrongful death cases also take longer to settle, where workers’ compensation death benefits can be paid upon approval.
What Types of Death Benefits are Available in a N.C. Workers’ Comp Claim?
Death benefits in North Carolina amount to two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage at the time of the accident for 500 weeks. The weekly benefit has a statutory weekly cap depending on the year of death, and a statutory minimum of $30 per week. The maximum benefit amount is recalculated at the beginning of each year to account for inflation.
In addition, survivors can receive up to $10,000 in burial expenses.
Determining who the eligible beneficiaries are in a workers’ compensation death claim can be complicated. In general:
- Benefits are first awarded to any survivors who are wholly dependent on the victim’s income for survival. Typically, this is the employee’s spouse or surviving minor children.
- If there are no wholly dependent survivors, benefits can be split among partially dependent survivors based on how much support they were receiving from the deceased worker before his/her death.
- If there are no whole or partial dependents, then the benefits will be distributed to the next of kin in a lump sum.
Beneficiaries who are minors will continue receiving benefits until their 18th birthday, even if it is more than 500 weeks away. In addition, widows and widowers who are unable to support themselves due to a physical or mental disability can continue to receive benefits for the rest or their lives or until they remarry.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim in North Carolina?
Generally, the deadline for filing a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits is two years from the date of death in North Carolina. However, you need to provide written notice of the accident to the employer within 30 days or risk losing access to compensation altogether.
How to File a Death Benefits Claim Under N.C. Workers’ Compensation Laws
A deceased worker’s family, next of kin, or estate has 30 days to officially notify the employer of a work-related death in writing, even if the employer already knows what happened. This is done by filling out a Form 18 — Notice of Accident to Employer and Claim of Employee for the North Carolina Industrial Commission. A copy should be sent to the employer as well. If the required paperwork is not filed with the Commission within two years of the date of death, the claim will be barred forever.
Once the employer has been notified about a potential wrongful death claim under workers’ compensation law, they have five days to respond to the Commission. They also have to make an effort to notify any potential beneficiaries within 45 days. They must also report any findings to the Commission by that time.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
It’s important to speak to a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible after losing someone due to a job-related accident or illness. It takes time to collect and prepare the documents needed to support a claim for death benefits. An experienced attorney can get started on that for you right away.
If you began the process of requesting death benefits and were denied, you need to schedule a consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer quickly. It may still be possible to appeal your claim and push for better results.
How Can Stewart Law Offices Help Me?
Stewart Law Offices has always been a family-focused firm. Our clients are family, and when you’re hurting, we want to help.
No amount of money will compensate you for the loss of a family member. Dollars don’t do that. But what death benefits can provide is a safety net for you and your family as you cope with the aftermath of your loss. A successful claim can pay for the medical expenses your loved one incurred as a result of his/her injury or illness and provide you with weekly income so that your family isn’t plunged into financial distress.
Let the knowledgeable Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyers at Stewart Law Offices handle your death benefits claim for you. We’ll do all of the heavy lifting, collecting the necessary records and filing the workers’ comp forms for you in a timely way. We can also investigate the accident to determine whether you have a potential wrongful death claim against a negligent third party.
Our law firm takes cases on a contingency fee basis. That means that you don’t have to pay any upfront fees for us to work on your case. We only get paid if we obtain a successful result for you.
We understand how important privacy is during this painful time. We can arrange to meet with you in whatever way is most comfortable for you. Just call or contact us now to schedule your free consultation.