Over the next several weeks I will be releasing a series of articles on North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Death Claims. The articles will address the following five overarching issues:
- Whether the underlying accident or occupational disease is compensable.
- Whether the accident or occupational disease caused the resulting death.
- What benefits are owed?
- To whom are the benefits owed?
- How are the benefits to be distributed?
This article explores what benefits are owed in the event of a workers’ compensation accident or occupational disease that results in death.
North Carolina General Statute § 97-38 governs the benefits that are owed as the result of a death claim. If death results proximately from a compensable injury or occupational disease, Defendants shall be responsible for:
- Authorized and related medical expenses.
- Burial expenses not to exceed $10,000.00.
- Weekly benefits for 500* weeks.
The weekly benefits are calculated the same way that temporary total disability benefits are calculated in a non-death claim. The weekly payments of compensation are “equal to sixty-six and two-thirds percent (66 2/3%) of the average weekly wages of the deceased employee at the time of the accident.”
Just like with temporary total disability benefits, weekly death benefits have a minimum and a maximum amount threshold. The benefits shall be “not more than the amount established annually to be effective October 1 as provided in G.S. 97-29, nor less than thirty dollars ($30.00), per week.” Per the North Carolina Industrial Commission, the maximum compensation rate in 2021 is $1,102.00. The maximum compensation rate in 2022 will be $1,184.00.
Although the default timeline for weekly benefits in a death claim is 500 weeks, this is subject to exceptions.
If a widow or widower of a deceased employee is unable to support her/himself because of physical or mental disability as of the date of the death of the deceased employee, compensation payments shall continue during her/his lifetime or until remarriage.
Additionally, if compensation payments are due to a dependent child, the payments shall be continued until such child reaches the age of 18, even if the time period extends beyond 500 weeks. If a dependent child reaches the age of 18 prior to the 500 weeks elapsing, the benefits do not stop, but will continue until the 500-week cap is reached.
In the next edition of this series, I will analyze to whom these benefits are paid.