When a worker is hurt on the job, he or she is entitled to workers’ compensation. When the workplace accident was a fatal one, though, that compensation cannot go to the worker. Instead, it goes to his or her dependents in the form of survivor benefits.
What are Survivor Benefits Under Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law?
Survivor benefits are a type of workers’ compensation. They get paid to the dependents of a victim who has died on the job. These benefits are meant to reduce the financial strain of losing a family breadwinner.
Under Missouri Statute 287.240, dependents are entitled to the following survivor benefits:
- Up to $5,000 in funeral expenses, and
- Two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly earnings from the year before the accident, capped at 105 percent of the average weekly wage in Missouri.
Every year, the Division of Workers’ Compensation releases data on the state’s average weekly wage. From July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, the average weekly wage is $1,030.69, putting the survivor benefits cap at $1,082.22 for that time period.
For some victims, like business owners, it is difficult calculating their average weekly wage. In these cases, the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission will make a determination based on the evidence presented to it.
These benefits are shared among all of the dependents, and are paid just like disability payments.
Who Are a Victim’s Dependents?
Generally, a victim’s dependents are his or her spouse and children.
Spouses are entitled to survivor benefits until they die or remarry. If they remarry, they are entitled to a lump sum worth two years of payments, but then the payments stop.
Children dependents are more complex.
In addition to natural children, child dependents include those that were adopted or that were conceived before the fatal accident but born after it. Children born out of wedlock are also considered dependents, as are stepchildren, so long as the stepchild could be claimed as a dependent on the victim’s federal tax return.
These children are entitled to survivor benefits until they turn 18 or, if they are in college full-time or in the Armed Forces, until they turn 22. Children who are physically or mentally incapacitated and cannot earn a living are also entitled to continue to receive survivor benefits, and can receive them until they are no longer incapacitated.
Because these dependents share the survivor benefits, the addition or subtraction of a dependent will change how much the others receive. For example, if a spouse and two children are receiving benefits, and then one of those children turns 18 and does not go to college or the Armed Forces, that child would no longer be a dependent and would not receive any more benefits. The other child and the spouse would see their benefits increase.
If there are no dependents, then the benefits are restricted to funeral and medical expenses.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve St. Joseph
Survivor benefits are a crucial piece of Missouri’s workers’ compensation scheme. While survivor benefits may be more generous in other states, they can still help the victim’s families recover from the accident.
The workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office can help. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373 for help in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.