Under California law, if you are financially dependent on a loved one who was killed on the job, you should be eligible to receive compensation to cover that loss. However, actually getting the compensation you deserve is not always easy. Between bureaucratic “red tape” and insurance companies looking for loopholes, death benefits and settlements can be sometimes delayed or even denied, and sometimes you may have to go to court to get the benefits to which you’re entitled. Let’s talk about the benefits you might be eligible to receive as a surviving member after a work-related death and some obstacles you may face in getting your claim paid.
Types of Compensation for Work-Related Deaths
There are two ways that surviving family members may be compensated after a loved one’s death on the job: Workers’ compensation death benefits and wrongful death claims. Workers’ compensation provides weekly benefits for those financially dependent on the deceased worker at the time of death. Wrongful death claims usually involve litigation against a third party who might have been at fault in causing the loved one’s death through negligence or an intentional act. Workers’ compensation death benefits are almost always available within weeks after a claim is filed; wrongful death claims require a bit more time and patience, but the settlements can be significant if you win. Some families are legally eligible for both types of compensation.
Common Obstacles to Receiving Work-Related Death Settlements
The most common obstacles that families face when trying to receive their benefits are paperwork delays, insurance companies, and the court system. Let’s explore all three:
- Paperwork issues: It can be difficult to get the required paperwork and evidence together to file for death benefits or file a wrongful death lawsuit, which can cause delays in getting compensated. Police reports, financial records, and internal investigation reports can take weeks or months to get together. Since California requires you to file for workers’ comp death benefits within a year of the death, these delays can cause undue stress.
- Insurance companies: Insurance companies often try to deny death claims filed by surviving family members because they are looking for reasons not to pay. For example, they may dispute the number of total or partial dependents on the claim, or they may dispute whether you were financially dependent if you make more than $30,000 a year on your own. You may need an attorney’s help to get past these roadblocks.
- Court system obstacles: If you have to go to court to get your settlement, this can also interfere with your timeline for getting paid, depending on the court schedules, attorney paperwork, and delays within the system. However, if your case is solid and you have patience, your settlement may end up being significantly higher if you win in court, especially with wrongful death claims—and most especially with a good attorney in your corner.
For best results in getting compensated promptly after a work-related death, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers at Accident Defenders have an excellent track record in helping our clients expedite workers’ comp benefits as well as personal injury claims. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 323-818-HURT or fill out our online contact form.