It’s the call that every married person dreads. The call from your spouse’s employer informing you that they have been killed in a serious accident at work. Your heart sinks, your mind races, and you are left shocked, confused, and wondering what to do next. “How did this happen so fast?” You wonder. “I never even had a chance to say goodbye.”
Nothing can bring back your spouse after a workplace accident, and no amount of money can make up for your loss. You are left with the unenviable task of giving them a proper funeral, picking up the pieces, and trying to move on. During the midst of all this, it will take time to fully grieve the loss of someone so close to you, and several weeks or months will likely pass by before you are able to fully adjust.
Death Benefits for Losing a Spouse in a Workplace Accident
Though no sum of money is enough to compensate for a lost loved one, there should be death benefits available to you through the Workers’ Compensation policy from your spouse’s employer. In South Carolina, most employers are required to carry workers’ comp insurance, so chances are good that you can collect benefits.
Workers’ comp is a complicated and confusing system, however, and it is not always easy to get your employer to help you navigate the complexities of it. Employers typically pay higher premiums after a workers’ compensation claim is filed, so helping an injury victim’s family recover benefits is not in their best financial interests. In such cases, you may need to enlist the guidance of a skilled advocate who can help you secure the benefits you need and deserve.
South Carolina considers the following family members to be total dependents for the purposes of collecting death benefits through workers’ compensation:
- Children under the age of 18;
- Children under the age of 23 who are full-time students at an accredited school;
- Children of any age who are disabled an incapable of supporting themselves.
Total dependents are eligible to receive the following workers’ compensation death benefits:
- Up to $12,000 in funeral and burial costs;
- 66 2/3% of the worker’s average weekly wage up to a maximum annual allowance ($838.21 in 2018).
Death benefits are paid to spouses for a maximum of 500 weeks from the date of the workplace injury. Benefits for children end when they reach age 18 or 23 if they are a full-time student. Disabled children who are not self-supporting can continue to receive death benefits for up to 500 weeks.
Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Above and Beyond my Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Workers’ compensation is a “no fault” system; meaning that, in most cases, injury victims and their families are eligible for benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In exchange for paying benefits regardless of fault, employers who carry workers’ comp insurance are generally exempt from civil lawsuits (except in very rare cases). That said, there are some circumstances in which you may be able to bring a personal injury claim against the party responsible for your spouse’s death. Examples may include:
- Employers Who do not Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance: As mentioned earlier, there are a few employers in South Carolina that are not required to carry workers’ comp insurance. These include agricultural operations, railroad/railway companies, and employers with annual payrolls of $3,000 or less. If your employer was responsible for the accident and is not covered by workers’ comp, you may be able to sue them for damages.
- A Third Party that is Responsible for the Accident: If a workplace accident occurred because of the negligence or reckless actions of a party other than you or your employer, you may be able to sue the responsible party for damages. Some common examples of this include auto accidents that occur on the job, and accidents that are caused by a third-party subcontractor at a jobsite.
Speak with a Compassionate South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer
Losing your spouse in a workplace accident is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone ever has to go through. If this has happened to you, you may not know where to turn to for legal help. If you are having difficulty recovering workers’ compensation benefits and/or you think another party may be responsible for the accident, it is best to speak with an experienced accident injury attorney, so you fully understand your rights and options.
At Peake & Fowler, we understand that you have been through a lot, and we are here to provide comfort, support, and skilled legal guidance. We can sit down with you when the time is right to thoroughly review your spouse’s injury and go over your best legal options. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at 803-998-2412, or you may send us a secure and confidential message using our online contact form.