In case the unthinkable happens and a loved one dies as a result of a work injury, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage provides benefits to survivors under Iowa law. While nothing can fully compensate you for your loss, these benefits can help you pay some of the unexpected expenses and help with the additional financial burdens you may face.
Who Receives Iowa Workers’ Comp Death Benefits?
When an Iowa employee dies, the state’s workers’ compensation program offers benefits to the surviving spouse and dependents.
· A worker’s spouse receives benefits for the rest of his or her life, or until remarriage. (If there are no children, the spouse may receive a lump sum settlement equal to two years of benefits upon remarriage.)
· A worker’s dependent children receive benefits until age 18, or until age 25 if they continue to meet criteria for being considered actually “dependent” (such as full-time enrollment in school).
· A worker’s children who are physically or mentally incapacitated at the time of the injury causing death receive a proportional share of weekly benefits for life, or until they become able to support themselves independently.
· A worker’s other actual dependents (parents, nieces/nephews, cousins, and even non-family members) may also qualify for benefits if there is proof of legal dependency.
What Benefits Are Paid?
Iowa law provides for immediate payment of reasonable burial expenses. The amount that is “reasonable” is up to twelve times the statewide average weekly wage paid to employees (calculated at the time of death), which is available from the Iowa Department of Workforce Development. The average wage rate in effect from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, for example, was $843.81, which results in a burial expense benefit cap of $10,125.72.
The weekly benefit rate for a surviving family depends on the employee’s gross wages. Beneficiaries receive 80 percent of the person’s weekly spendable income (gross wages minus payroll taxes). A family will receive at least a minimum amount based on a worker whose gross weekly wages equal 35 percent of the statewide weekly average income; the maximum amount of benefits is 200 percent of the statewide weekly average (just under $1,700 weekly using the 2016-2017 rates).
The total benefit amount should be allocated by the workers’ compensation commissioner to a worker’s surviving spouse and dependents on an equitable basis, i.e., in a manner that is “fair to all concerned” considering the circumstances and needs of each individual dependent.
When Are Benefits Paid?
Survivors are entitled to benefits beginning the day of the employee’s death. Iowa encourages insurers to pay benefits promptly so that family members can pay immediate expenses and suffer as little financial hardship as possible. If death benefits are unreasonably denied or delayed, the surviving family may qualify for interest and penalties in addition to the statutory benefits. An experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorney can help you ascertain the cause of the denial or delay and fight for prompt payment of the benefits you deserve.
Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for Iowa Employees
Don’t try to navigate the Iowa workers’ compensation system alone. A skilled, experienced attorney is your advocate and partner through the complicated and often confusing workers’ compensation claim process. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one in a work-related injury or have been injured at work, contact the Platt Law Firm today. We will review the facts of your situation and help you figure out whether you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses, lost wages, temporary or permanent disability, or other covered expenses.