South Carolina Workers' Compensation Death Benefits
Workplace injuries have claimed the lives of around 4,000 to 5,000 American workers every year for more than a decade. When someone dies from a job injury or occupational illness, certain family members may be entitled to death benefits under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. If you’ve lost a loved one in a job-related accident, a compassionate attorney from Stewart Law Offices can help you pursue these benefits during this painful and overwhelming time.
Death benefits recognize that the sudden loss of a family member can have a significant financial impact on the people that the deceased worker leaves behind. Death benefits can help pay for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and partial replacement of your loved one’s wages to lessen the financial blow.
With decades of combined legal experience, the skilled workers’ compensation attorneys at Stewart Law Offices have a track record of success in obtaining full and fair death benefits for grieving families throughout the Carolinas. It’s not always easy to get the employer’s insurer to pay the benefits you deserve. No mourning family should have to take up this fight alone.
You can count on Stewart Law Offices to stand up for you. Call or contact us today for a private and free consultation.
What Death Benefits Can Be Received in a Workers’ Comp Claim?
Under South Carolina Code § 42-9-110, certain family members of an eligible worker are entitled to the death benefits including:
- All medical expenses incurred by the worker as a result of their work-related injury or illness up until their death
- A benefit payment of two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks
- Burial expenses up to $12,000
Benefits are paid to family members who were wholly dependent on the worker. Usually, this means the employee’s spouse or dependent children.
However, the law does allow children over age 19 who are enrolled full-time at an accredited educational institution to receive death benefits. Dependent children who are mentally or physically incapable of supporting themselves can also receive death benefits regardless of age.
If there are no wholly-dependent relatives, benefits can be apportioned to partial dependents according to the individuals’ degree of dependency. Determining eligibility in these more complicated family situations can be confusing, so it’s a good idea to contact a knowledgeable S.C. workers’ compensation attorney for guidance.
Are South Carolina Death Benefits Taxable?
According to Code §42-9-360, all workers’ compensation death benefits claims are exempt from the claims of creditors and all estate taxes.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the family of a deceased worker has two years from the date of their relative’s death to file a claim for death benefits. The clock starts ticking from the date of the worker’s death, not the date of the workplace accident.
Although two years sounds like a long time, it’s a good idea to get the workers’ compensation claims process started right away so that benefits can be paid as soon as possible. This will provide financial support when you need it most.
The workers’ compensation system is full of deadlines from start to finish. It’s important to meet all of the application requirements so that your claim is not barred forever. Because it can take time to gather the important documentation necessary to support your claim for death benefits, it’s best to avoid a time crunch by getting started quickly. Turn the job over to a workers’ compensation lawyer at Stewart Law Offices. We’ll get started on your claim immediately.
How to File for Death Benefits
If your loved one was killed in the course and scope of his or her employment, you must file a claim for death benefits. The process starts by submitting Form 52 to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Your claim may be disputed if the employer or its workers’ compensation insurer concludes that your family member did not die due to a work-related injury or illness. Alternatively, they may argue that fatal injury was a result of the worker’s reckless behavior (e.g., engaging in horseplay, being intoxicated on the job, or disregarding safety protocols), intentional acts, or criminal behavior.
If your claim is contested, it’s critical to contact a trusted workers’ compensation lawyer. An attorney can take over communications with the insurance company and work toward a timely resolution of your claim.
If you’ve already been denied, you have the right to a hearing before the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission. A workers’ compensation hearing resembles a trial, with both you and the employer and/or insurer having the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Because this is a formal proceeding, you’d be well-advised to be represented by a workers’ compensation lawyer who understands the laws and how to respond to arguments from the opposing side.
Your initial hearing will be presided over by a commissioner. If you are dissatisfied with his or her determination, you may file an appeal for review by a panel of commissioners. If the panel rules against you, your final option would be to file a lawsuit through the courts.
When Should I Contact a South Carolina Workers’ Comp Attorney?
It’s wise to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer before applying for death benefits. An attorney knows what’s necessary to build a solid claim for maximum compensation. A competent attorney can also collect, organize, and submit the claim for you. That way, you don’t have to worry about making errors that could delay or complicate the process.
If you have already applied and been denied for death benefits, a workers’ compensation attorney can work to prepare a strong, persuasive legal argument for an appeal. Having legal representation will give you and your family the best possible chance of securing the compensation and benefits you need.
There are also circumstances when a family member’s workplace death is the result of another party’s negligence. While you cannot sue your loved one’s employer, it may be possible to file a wrongful death claim against an outside third party if their negligence caused the death. A lawyer can help you determine whether it’s possible to file a wrongful death claim, which could entitle you to additional compensation for pain and suffering.
Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits vs. Wrongful Death
It’s important to understand the difference between death benefits and wrongful death in South Carolina. Applying for death benefits is a workers’ compensation claim. Wrongful death is a personal injury claim.
Death benefits are available to family members regardless of fault. In other words, family members are not required to prove that anyone else was at fault for the death in order to receive benefits. In exchange for these no-fault benefits, employees and their family members give up the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the deceased worker’s employer.
However, there are limited circumstances where a wrongful death claim could be valid. Some jobs involve groups of contractors and subcontractors who work on a project at the same time. If someone other than the worker’s employer caused the fatal accident, you might be able to file a wrongful death claim against that party.
Unlike a workers’ comp claim, you must prove fault in a wrongful death case. That involves conducting a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and developing an effective legal argument to support your claim.
Identifying whether a third party bears any responsibility for your relative’s workplace death is a job for an experienced lawyer. In South Carolina, you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
How Can Stewart Law Offices Help Me?
First, please accept the heartfelt condolences from Stewart Law Offices for the loss of your family member.
Stewart Law Offices can support you through the entire process of applying for death benefits. We will:
- Meet with you in a free consultation wherever is most comfortable for you
- Listen to your story and determine your eligibility for S.C. death benefits
- File the necessary paperwork to submit a claim for death benefits
- Manage communications with your employer and your employer’s insurer to take the burden off you and protect your legal rights
- Investigate the claim to determine whether any third parties could be held liable in a separate negligence claim
- Represent you in appeals before the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission
- Return your calls, reply to emails, and keep you updated on the progress of your case
- Charge no fee unless we obtain compensation for you
You don’t have to apply for South Carolina death benefits by yourself. If you’re coping with the loss of a loved one from an on-the-job accident or illness, let Stewart Law Offices take over the process for you.
Our dedicated South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys know that money cannot possibly replace your loss. However, death benefits can help cover the unexpected drop in income that comes with the death of wage earner. This money can help stabilize your financial situation as your family begins moving forward in life.
Stewart Law Offices has five offices conveniently located throughout South Carolina, including Rock Hill, Columbia, Spartanburg, and Beaufort. * Call or contact us right away to arrange a free consultation.