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Work injuries and illnesses can be deadly. In such cases, the deceased worker can leave behind family members otherwise dependent on the wage benefit provided by workers comp. NJ Workers Compensation death benefits do provide for dependent survivors organized by relationship to the deceased worker.

This can be a matter of economic survival. Family members may have relied on the deceased worker as the family’s “breadwinner” at the time of the injury or occupational disease. The benefit can replace income lost by the death of the worker for dependent family members. The death benefit also provides a $5,000 maximum amount to cover funeral expenses.
Losing a member of the family to an on-the-job injury or illness is a traumatic experience. The accompanying financial strain makes the situation worse. The law of workers compensation death benefits is complex. The insurance companies typically do not pay these benefits voluntarily. The Bureau of Labor  Statistics 2020 Report reflects 4,764 fatal work injuries in the United States in the year 2020.
Hands comfort the family of a worker dying on the job
In an accepted death claim, the weekly benefit would be 70% of the average weekly wage of the deceased worker. The benefit is also subject to the yearly adjusted state maximum benefits, as shown below.
NJ Workman comp death benefit rates
The wage benefit can continue for certain dependents as defined under what is commonly referred to as the dependency statute for workers compensation. Under New Jersey Law, lists the potential dependents who can share as claimants to the deceased worker’s wage benefit. Here is the list:
  • Husband
  • wife
  • parent,
  • stepparents,
  • grandparents
  • children including:
    • stepchildren, grandchildren,
    • child in esse (ie. Esse meaning after birth)
    • posthumous child (ie. Child born after the death of the deceased worker)
    • illegitimate children,
    • adopted children (natural children include adopted children)
  • brothers
  • sisters
  • half brothers
  • half-sisters,
  • niece,
  • nephew
who are dependent on the decedent at 1) the time of accident or occurrence of occupational disease or 2) at the time of death.

What Proof is Necessary to Establish Dependency

The above list of potential claimants is comprehensive. But the most frequent claimants are surviving spouses and children (either biological or adopted).
There is a conclusive presumption of dependency for a surviving spouse who lived with the deceased worker at the time of the death. The same presumption applies to natural children (including adopted children) with the same living arrangements at the deceased workers death.
A conclusive presumption allows for the finding of dependency by the Judge of Compensation without further evidence. The presumption also reflects that the dependency is whole. This means that the dependents share the full benefit of the deceased’s workers wage benefit.
All other claimants must prove dependency. This burden of proof is on the claimant to show actual financial dependence. There is no presumption of dependency for the other categories of claimants. If partial, the benefit allotted to that child reflects the total amount of support provided by the deceased worker. This support is then expressed as a percentage of the worker’s actual wage.

How Long Do Dependency Benefits Last?

For the surviving spouse, the benefit lasts for the rest of their life. If the surviving spouse remarries, there is a complicated statutory provision. This provision will apply to limit the remaining benefits payable to the surviving spouse. This limit does not apply, however, to the surviving spouses of specified police and fire personnel who receive dependency benefits for life regardless of remarriage.
For surviving children, the duration of benefits for children is to age 18 with an extension to age 23 if attending school as a full-time student. A child or children suffering from a disability may receive additional benefits. There is a maximum of 450 weeks for benefits payable.

Your Choice of Attorney Makes a Difference in the Outcome of Your Case

Workers Compensation death benefits are one of the key protections offered to the dependents of workers who die as a result of a workplace accident or illness. Untimely death is always a tragedy. A Judge of Compensation often decides the nature and extent of death benefits based on the deceased worker’s salary calculations. John F. Renner has the experience you need. Last but not least, our contact number is (856) 596-8000.

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