Workers’ compensation law in Pennsylvania allows financially dependent surviving family members of a deceased person who died from a work-related injury or illness to receive appropriate financial compensation. The compensation is intended to replace the financial support they had been receiving and would receive in the future from the deceased worker. The injury or illness resulting in the death must have occurred during or due to the employment of the deceased.

Death benefit cases in Pennsylvania may also be referred to as “fatal claims.” In these claims, the claimant must demonstrate that the employee’s work related injury or illness was a “substantial, contributing cause” resulting in their death. If the evidence is not obvious as to how the work injury or illness is linked to the death, the claimant must provide the necessary unambiguous medical evidence supporting the connection.

Valid death benefit claim criteria

In Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania, a valid death benefit claim must take place within 300 weeks of the work injury. However, if death due to a workplace illness occurred, calculating the deadline and determining specific employer responsibility for workers’ comp with respect to particular diseases can be more complex and depend on the facts of the case.

There are circumstances that can invalidate a death benefit claim. These include:

  • Death as a result of the employee’s illegal activity
  • Death resulting from the employee inflicting attentional harm on his or her person (other than suicide as a result of mental illness that is work related)
  • Death as a result of the worker’s intoxication
  • Death caused intentionally by a third-party for reasons not connected to work, and either on or off work premises

The determination of which dependent survivors can become eligible claimants for compensation is often complicated. It can depend on particular family circumstances, as well as the deceased’s children, widow or widower, siblings, and parents. Eligible siblings or children of the deceased must be adults who are minors with a disability. Children of the deceased who are full-time students may also be eligible until they reach the age of 23.

The income level of the deceased worker determines the level of death benefit payment to his or her eligible survivors, with specific limitations based on the current average weekly wage in Pennsylvania.

Claimants also receive financial compensation to handle reasonable burial costs up to $3,000. This compensation is paid directly to the provider of the burial services.

Eligible surviving dependents

A survivor of the deceased who believes he or she is eligible for death benefits can begin the process by filing a claim petition. It’s important to consult with an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney from the start in order to proceed under solid legal advice and guidance. An attorney can also help you handle any denial of your claim and issue an effective appeal.

Fatal claim denials are often reviewed through one of several entities, including the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workers Compensation, and through appeal, to Pennsylvania State Court.

Losing a family member is often a very tragic event for the survivors of the deceased. At Larry Pitt & Associates, we understand the difficult burdens you may be facing now due to the unexpected loss of a loved one. We can provide you with a free consultation with a compassionate Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney from our team. Call us today at 888.PITT.LAW or complete our contact form. Our team serves Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties.