If a Family Member is Killed Due to a Work Injury, a Death Claim is Available Under Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law

In the U.S., a disabling injury occurs every 1 second, a fatal injury occurs every 4 minutes.

A work related fatal or death claim involves the payment to the survivors of an employee fatally injured in the course and scope of his or her employment. Survivors include surviving spouse, children, parents or siblings, and the rights of these individuals are determined as of the time of death of the employee. The claim of the survivors are separate or independent from the deceased employee. This means that there is a potential risk with the tolling or running of the statute of limitations with this claim, in that if a death  or fatal claim is not filed before the expiration of 3 years from the date of death, the courts have barred the pursuit of benefits. This is true even if the Claimant dies before his/her original “regular” workers’ compensation claim is picked up. In other words , you do not get additional time during the litigation of  the original claim to “extend” the 3 year statute of limitations for filing the death or fatal claim petition. In addition, for a fatal claim for death benefits to be compensable as a work-related occupational disease, under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the death must occur within 300 weeks of the last date of employment where exposure to the hazards of the occupational disease occurred.

The benefits payable to the surviving spouse are up to 51% of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage, but not in excess of the maximum compensation payable for the year of the death of the employee. These benefits are payable for life subject to four exceptions; a) Death of the surviving spouse; b) Remarriage; c) Meretricious relationship; or d) Prostitution. Burial expenses are also payable up to $3000, not to survivors, but rather directly to the funeral home. Children, if so entitled and are considered “a member of the deceased’s household”, are entitled to receive benefits; a) up to age 18; b) if disabled and dependent as long as the disability “lasts”; or c) students up to age 23 if enrolled full time in an accredited educational institution.