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What happens if an employee dies before full workers’ comp benefits are paid?

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

As a form of insurance, workers’ compensation is quite comprehensive. It covers expenses related to an employee’s work-related injuries. It also pays for any lost wages and even provides benefits to the employee’s dependents if the injury leads to death.

But what happens if an injured employee already receiving compensation for a prior work-related injury suddenly dies? What happens to the rest of their unpaid benefits? If another work-related accident caused the death, is it compensable by workers’ compensation?

The unpaid balance gets paid

Per North Carolina statutes, the employer or insurer must pay for the unpaid balance if an employee receiving workers’ compensation dies from a cause other than the injury they applied for.

This can apply to cases where the employee dies outside work, such as in a motor vehicle accident.

The payments will first go to the employee’s surviving whole dependents (those who rely entirely on the employee for support), then partial dependents (those with means of support apart from the employee). If there are no dependents, the balance goes to the employee’s personal representative.

Death from another compensable injury

If the injured employee dies due to another compensable work-related accident, all right to unpaid compensation for the previous injury stops. Instead, the employee’s dependents will be compensated based on the latest injury.

This means the employee’s dependents will receive weekly compensation payments equal to 66 2/3% of the deceased employee’s average weekly wages. They’re also eligible for coverage for burial expenses up to $10,000.

Fatal workplace accidents are heartbreaking. The last thing a deceased employee’s dependents need is an unceremonious stop to benefits payments. If an employer or insurer decides to abruptly end paying benefits to a dead employee’s surviving kin, the dependents should consider legal counsel.