It is tough under any circumstances when a family member or loved one dies accidently in the course of working or from an occupational disease. When the deceased provided financial support from his or her wages for other individuals, the sudden loss of that income can create a financial crisis.
For this reason, Maryland Workers’ Compensation law provides for payment of a weekly death benefit to persons who were totally or partially dependent on the deceased claimant. The definition of dependency for eligibility purposes can be complicated, but in Maryland eligibility looks at whether someone was financially dependent, not at whether he or she was a spouse, child or other relative.
For example, in one Maryland case, death benefits were properly paid to the surviving dependant romantic partner who had lived with the deceased worker. However, the law does favor surviving spouses and children in some ways over other dependents. For example, in certain situations, a surviving spouse or dependent child who remains dependent on the lost wages of the deceased worker may continue to receive benefits beyond the $45,000 cap that cuts off benefits to other nonspouse, nonchild totally dependent recipients.
Dependency is determined as of the time of injury that resulted in death or if the worker died from an occupational illness, the date that the disease caused compensable disability that eventually led to death.
Onset of dependency
If the death was from an occupational illness, a person would not be eligible for death benefits if he or she became dependent on the employee after the worker became eligible for workers’ compensation based on that disease, except for a child of the employee born after that time, if the parents were married when that disability started.
A surviving spouse may not be eligible for death benefits in certain cases of desertion of the deceased worker, or if the couple married after the injury or disability onset from occupational disease and do not have dependent children.
Maryland Workers’ Compensation death and dependent benefits law is extremely complex and we have only touched on some aspects here. We will continue this discussion in Part 2 of this post.