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Death on the Job – Fatality

Being killed on the job is a tragedy, with complications. This page is designed to help the survivors of an L&I fatality make good decisions in their time of need. It applies only to deceased Washington state workers, such as when the husband has died on the job, or the wife has died on the job. If you are involved in the handling of the affairs of someone diseased because of a job injury, you should read this page. I know that, at a time like this you have a lot of grief and plenty of other things on your mind. It’s all the more important that you take the time to understand this information. Later on or even now these things will become very important and they need to be handled before it’s too late. The following analysis will help. 
 

IS DEATH JOB RELATED?

(1) Yes.

  • The work related activity is responsible for or partly responsible for the death. THE FATALITY IS AN L&I CLAIM. 

(2) No.

  • The work related activity did not cause the death. THE FATALITY IS NOT AN L&I CLAIM. 

(3) Maybe.

  • The work related activity may have caused the death. THE FATALITY MAY BE AN L&I CLAIM. 

Determining the cause of death can be easy or it can be tricky. Be careful. If you guess wrong you could lose big time. Get advice if there is any question. Contact us for help.

The Fatality Is An L&I Claim. 

When the fatality is an L&I claim then file an application for benefits.

 Claim Acceptance            

To get an L&I claim accepted – If the job activity or exposure was a cause of (it doesn’t need to be the only cause) or accelerated the death, then the fatality is (or should be) an L&I claim. So file an application for benefits.

Who files the application for pension benefits? – A beneficiary does the filing RCW 51.08.020. Beneficiaries are spouse, registered domestic partner, or children. If there are no beneficiaries then a  dependent does the filing RCW 51.08.050.  Need an application? Contact us or talk to L&I. 

The Fatality Is Not an L&I Claim 

Unrelated Incident

Not all on the job fatalities result in L&I claims. For example, a person who dies of a heart attack while doing non stressful work will not have a death which would likely result in an L&I claim.

The fatality may not be job related, but there may still be a personal injury claim. For example many commutes to and from the job are not covered by L&I.  However a commuting fatality can still result in a personal injury claim against the negligent driver who caused the death.

The fatality is not an L&I claim, but there is an open L&I claim at the time of death

  • If injured worker’s status immediately prior to an unrelated death was that he could never work again then it would be correct to formally request a pension for a spouse or children based not on the death, but rather on the workers’ L&I claim status at death.
  • If injured worker was fixed and stable and had time loss money or permanent partial disability money owed by L&I at the time of death, it should be paid to the surviving spouse, or if none the surviving children, or if neither then according to the will, but if none then according to intestate distribution scheme. RCW 51.32.040(2).

There Is No L&I Claim For The Fatality, But Possibly There Should Be One

This happens often. For example: 

  • A fatality by heart attack where the deceased was performing stressful work. The job may have caused the heart attack. L&I may not agree, but this is a pension case for the survivors. The challenge is proving it, don’t give up. Consult with an attorney.
  • A fatality which is the result of an occupational exposure such as a lung condition where the deceased worked recently or anytime in the past in an environment where he breathed toxic chemicals, fumes, wood fibers, dust or the like. Contact Us
  • A fatality to a traveling employee. Call us now to discuss 206-343-1988
  • A fatality while running an errand for the boss. Get Help
  • A fatality while off the clock but still working. Get your questions answered.

Don’t believe everything L&I tells you. If they deny a claim they could be wrong. If common sense or the doctor tells you some job somewhere could have contributed to this death than contact us or protest before it’s too late. 

There are many fatalities which were caused, at least in part by the job, but nobody files a claim.  Don’t let that happen to you! THE SOLUTION IS TO GET HELP OR FILE A CLAIM and see what happens. This is a good time to visit the subject of the statute of limitations.

Death Benefits RCW 51.32.050

After a claim is established and an application for pension benefits is filed, where death is recognized by L&I as related to job activity, then these are the death benefits:

  • Immediate Cash Payment for Death Related to Industrial Injury
    A one-time immediate paymentwill be made when a death is related to an industrial injury or occupational disease if there is a spouse/registered domestic partner, child, or dependent. The amount of the immediate payment is 100 percent of the average monthly wage in the state. (See Death and Burial Rates Chart), or Contact us
  • Burial Benefits and Funeral Expenses for Death Related to Industrial Injury
    A burial benefit and funeral expenses are payable when a death is related to the industrial injury or occupational disease. The maximum amount paid is up to 200 percent of the average monthly wage in the state. (See Death and Burial Rates Chart) For information on exactly which expenses are covered or reimbursed see policy 15.70, or Contact us. 
  • Monthly Survivor Benefits (Widow/Widower Pension)
    The amount of a monthly pension varies depending upon who gets it. The pension first goes to the surviving spouse/registered domestic partner,  but if none then children, or other dependents. The variations are:
    • Surviving Spouse/Registered Domestic Partner. For recent injuries, a surviving spouse/registered domestic partner receives 60 percent of the wages at the time of injury up to the maximum level allowed by law. If the worker had minor children, an additional 2 percent per child is paid, up to an additional maximum of 10 percent. This payment looks like time loss but is paid once monthly on the 15th. If a surviving spouse or registered domestic parter remarries or enters into another registered domestic partnership, their monthly pension does not continue. The spouse is given the option of:

    • A lump sum settlement of 24 times the monthly compensation, or 50% of the remaining annuity value of the pension, whichever is less; or
    • Declining the settlement and maintaining their right to reinstate pension benefits if the marriage or registered domestic partnership ends because of death, divorce, or termination of the domestic partnership.
  • Children’s Benefits (where there is no eligible spouse/registered domestic partner). A monthly benefit of 35 percent of the worker’s wage is paid to the guardian of a minor dependent. Another 15 percent of the wage is paid for each additional child up to a maximum benefit equal to 65 percent of the wage at the time of injury. If there is more than one child, benefits are divided equally among them. Benefits end for minor dependents when they reasch age 18 (up to 23 if they are full-time students in an accredited school). 
  • Other Dependents. If the worker leaves no surviving spouse or child then qualified dependents can receive payments if they were dependent on the worker’s earnings RCW 51.32.050(5). Dependents can include such relatives as a father, mother, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. RCW 51.08. The benefit is equal to half the average monthly support received by the dependent during the year preceding the injury.  The benefit limit is 65 percent of the worker’s wage or maximum benefit level, whichever is less, for all dependents. The payments end when the necessity that created the dependency would have ended had the injury not occurred. 

What’s Next?