Under workers’ compensation in New Jersey, fatalities that occur in the workplace or as a result of a work-related injury or illness are handled in the same manner as nonfatal injuries. Firstly, the deceased worker must be subject to New Jersey workers’ compensation laws and the fatal accident must be compensable under the law. In other words, it must be proven that the worker’s death was fundamentally work-related. If this cannot be sufficiently proven, the claim may be denied.
However, if it can be proven that the death was fundamentally caused by a work-related accident or illness, the survivors of the deceased worker may be entitled to certain dependency benefits. The nature of these benefits will be determined to some extent by the cause of the worker’s death and whether or not their dependency can be proven.
The general rule is that a surviving spouse or civil union partner and any natural children under the age of 18, who were part of the deceased worker’s household at the time of his or her death are automatically entitled to dependency benefits. A surviving spouse or civil union partner, natural child, mother, father, grandparent or other relative who was not part of the decedent’s household at the time of death will need to prove that they were dependents of the decedent.
When a worker suffer a fatal accident while on the job, or as a result of a work-related injury or illness, the surviving dependents are entitled to receive weekly benefits at 70% of the deceased worker’s weekly wages not to exceed a maximum set by the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor. Dependents split the weekly dependency benefits, and when one of them is no longer entitled to receive benefits, the remaining dependent’s shares will be adjusted. The employer will also be responsible for paying funeral expense up to $3500.
A surviving spouse or civil union partner is entitled to receive weekly benefits for his or her entire life, or until he or she remarries. Dependent children only receive benefits until they reach the age of 18. Benefits may continue after 18 for a dependent child who is a full-time student or either mentally or physically incapacitated.
Typically, the employer of the worker killed in the fatal workplace accident or who has died as a result of a work-related injury or illness will contact his or her dependents and begin paying benefits automatically. But, with the assistance of an attorney, you can also file a Claim Petition or an Application for an Informal Hearing with the Division of Workers’ Compensation to address any disputes that arise.
There may be disputes regarding certain aspects of the claim such as whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prove that the death was work-related, the worker’s average weekly salary or wages, or whether or not you qualify to receive benefits as a dependent. These types of disputes will often need to be resolved by a judge. But, you only have two years after the date of the accident or the date of the last benefit payment to file a claim or request a hearing. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you prepare your case and ensure that you receive the benefits that you and your family are entitled to receive.