The most recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) revealed that there were over 80 fatal work injuries in New Jersey during the last reporting year. Despite the number of workers telecommuting and working from home, the number of fatal injuries rose from the previous year. According to the BLS, transportation incidents, exposure to harmful substances, falls, slips and trips account for the leading causes of occupational injuries. The private construction industry had the highest number of New Jersey occupational fatalities, with trade contractors accounting for the majority of those accidents.
There are various factors that impact the likelihood and severity of a work injury; however, employers can take steps to prevent many of these predictable events. Under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation system, those who suffer injuries or contract an occupational disease while working are entitled to medical care, temporary disability payments, and compensation for resulting permanent disability. Additionally, the families of workers who are killed in a Camden workplace accident can recover workers’ compensation death benefits.
At the New Jersey workers’ compensation law firm of Petrillo & Goldberg, we represent grieving families who lost a loved one in a workplace accident. Our compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys will guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your family recovers the benefits they need and deserve following your tragic loss.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
In the tragic case of work-related death, New Jersey law permits loved ones to collect death benefits through the state’s workers’ compensation program. The law permits qualifying family members to collect a weekly death benefit payment of up to 70% of the deceased’s weekly wage prior to death. In cases where more than one family member is eligible, the benefit will be distributed among all qualifying family members.
Workers’ compensation death benefits are subject to a cap that the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“DOL”) reviews and modifies annually. If the cap is less than 70% of the deceased’s weekly wage, the eligible family member is only entitled to secure the statutory minimum. According to a circular letter from the Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau, the 2022 New Jersey workers’ compensation death benefit cap is $1065 per week.
Additionally, qualifying family members can secure workers’ compensation benefits to cover reasonable funeral expenses. Family members can obtain either: the actual costs they incur for funeral costs, or $3,500, whichever is lower.
Eligibility for New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
Those who qualify as the deceased’s “dependents” are eligible to receive workers’ compensation death benefits. Dependents include:
- A surviving spouse and dependent children who resided in the worker’s household at the time of death.
- A surviving spouse and dependent children who were not living in the worker’s household must prove their dependency to receive benefits.
- Children are dependent until they reach 18 years old or 23 years old if they are full-time students.
- A dependent child who is disabled may be entitled to additional benefits
- A civil union partner may qualify for death benefits.
Others who may qualify include adopted children, parents, grandparents, and siblings.
Potential Problems When Pursuing Death Benefits
Under certain circumstances, a dependent may not be entitled to benefits. These situations include those such as:
- When a surviving spouse remarries;
- When the surviving spouse deserted the deceased more than a year before the beginning of their workplace injury or disease;
- When a surviving spouse deserted the deceased after the workplace accident or injury started; and
- When the surviving spouse and deceased married after the date of the accident.
Additionally, employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies routinely deny death benefit claims for a variety of other reasons. For example, an employer may claim that a fatal accident was not the result of your loved one’s employment. Unfortunately, too many families take the insurance company’s word that their claim is not compensable. It is essential to consult with an experienced Camden workers’ compensation lawyer to get a second opinion about the viability of your claim.
Types and Duration of New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
The death benefit compensation includes payment for approved medical bills, funeral expenses, and weekly death benefits. However, there are specific caveats to each of these benefits.
Further, the length of time a dependent can receive these benefits depends on the relationship between the dependent and the deceased worker. Besides surviving spouses, children, parents, and other eligible dependents are generally entitled to benefits for up to 450 weeks while the dependent is between 18 and 40 years old.
Third Party Wrongful Death Claims
The workers’ compensation system reflects a trade-off for employers and employees. On one hand, employers must pay for workers’ compensation insurance. However, on the other hand, by maintaining a workers’ compensation insurance policy, employers are protected from personal injury lawsuits brought by employees and their loved ones. In this way, a workers’ compensation claim is a family’s sole remedy against their love one’s employer.
However, under New Jersey law a grieving family can still sue other potentially liable parties in a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, say that your family member working on a construction site when a drunk driver drove through the site, hitting and killing your loved one. In this situation, you could file for workers’ compensation benefits as well as file a third-party wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver.
Third-party wrongful death claims are important allow grieving families to obtain benefits that are not available through the workers’ compensation system. Most importantly, families can recover non-economic damages through a third-party wrongful death claim, which are unavailable through a workers’ compensation death benefits claim. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Emotional distress, and
- Loss of familial relationships.
Have You Lost a Loved One in a Camden Workplace Accident?
If you recently suffered through the tragedy of losing a loved one in a workplace accident, the dedicated Camden workers’ compensation lawyers at Petrillo & Greenberg are here to help. We offer all prospective clients a free consultation to discuss their claim and will never bill you for any of our services unless we can recover compensation on your family’s behalf. Our lawyers have successfully handled hundreds of workers’ compensation claims on behalf of workers and families across New Jersey. To learn more, call 856-486-4343 to schedule a free consultation. You can also reach us through our secure online contact form.