Without a doubt, making a claim for death benefits can be extremely difficult after losing a loved one. While making a claim is often the furthest thing on one’s mind, the unexpected or premature death of a family member can leave an enormous financial burden on the family.
In the case of the death of a worker who had an existing workers compensation claim prior to their death, the entire claim may need to be reviewed. There is no requirement that the injury is the immediate cause of death. Death can occur immediately after an accident or a considerable time later.
As soon as becoming aware of the death, the insurer should write to the worker’s family or legal representatives to advise that compensation may be payable.
Liability should be determined by the insurer within 21 days after becoming aware of the death unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so.
To determine liability the insurer may require information from the employer or any witnesses, a death certificate, medical reports, coroner’s or autopsy reports and police reports.
Generally, compensation is not payable in respect of the death of a worker caused by an intentional self-inflicted injury. The burden of proof falls on the employer to establish that the worker’s death was self-inflicted.
The entitlements of dependants:
If the insurer accepts liability for a work-related death, the dependant(s) of the worker whose work-related death occurred on or after 24 October 2007 are entitled to the following:
- A lump sum payment of $862,350 as of 1 April 2022. This is indexed twice per year in April and October.
- Weekly payments of $154.40 per week as of 1 October 2022 for each dependent child. These payments continue until the child reaches 16 years of age, or if the child is a student, 21 years of age.
- Funeral expenses which are limited to $15,000. Funeral expenses include: the cost of the funeral service, coffin, mourning car, flowers, death certificate and funeral director’s professional fees.
- Expense of transporting the body to the deceased’s usual place of residence or what would be an appropriate place for its burial or cremation.
Where there is more than one dependant:
Generally, “dependants” of a worker that suffered a work-related death are entitled to death benefits. A dependent child can be a worker’s child or stepchild who was wholly or partially dependent on them for support at the time of the worker’s death.
Where there is only one dependant, the full lump sum benefit goes to that dependant. For more than one dependant, the full lump sum benefit must be apportioned between all dependants. The Personal Injury Commission is responsible for making a determination of apportionment.
To make a dependency decision, the following information may be used: statutory declarations, marriage certificate, birth certificate(s), law will and testament, probate or letters of administration and financial records including superannuation nominations.
In circumstance where more than one dependant is identified, insurers are to:
- Apply to the Personal Injury Commission to apportion the lump sum benefit.
- Seek the details of all persons who may have an entitlement, including potential dependants.
- Write to all persons who may have an entitlement to advise that they may be able to claim in relation to the lump sum death benefit.
We understand that this can all be a lot to handle and that this may be an incredibly difficult time for you. As a team of experienced lawyers, we will be able to review your claim and help you understand your entitlements.
Please contact us for more information.
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