L&I Workers’ Comp Death Benefits
In an ideal world, every workers’ comp L&I claim would ultimately end with total recovery, and the injured worker being able to return to work. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. When a worker’s injury or illness results in their death, certain family members may be entitled to workers’ comp death benefits and L&I survivor pensions.
What Kinds Of L&I Workers’ Comp Death Benefits Are Available?
A workplace injury or occupational illness that results in death entitles the injured worker’s spouse and dependents to L&I death benefits, also known as L&I survivor pensions, including the following:
- A one-time immediate payment to the deceased’s spouse or registered domestic partner
- Monthly survivor pensions
- Burial reimbursements
What Is A One-Time Immediate Payment?
A one-time immediate payment will be made to the deceased worker’s spouse or registered domestic partner, child, or dependent when the death is related to an industrial injury or occupational illness. The amount of the immediate payment is 100 percent of the average monthly wage in the state.
Who Is Eligible For L&I Survivor Pensions?
If a worker dies as a result of their injury, their spouse or registered domestic partner, child, or dependent may be eligible for an L&I survivor pension.
- If the decedent was married prior to the workplace injury or occupational illness and remained married until death, their spouse or domestic partner would be eligible to receive any L&I benefits awarded to you for the duration of your lifetime.
- If the decedent leaves no surviving spouse, partner, or child behind then other qualified dependents can receive benefits equal to half the average monthly support received by the dependent during the year preceding the injury. The benefit limit is 65 percent of the worker’s wage or maximum benefit level, whichever is less, for all dependents. The payments end when the necessity that created the dependency would have ended had the injury not occurred. Dependents eligible to receive benefits must have been dependent on the worker’s earnings prior to their death and can include parents, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nieces, and or nephews.
What Are L&I Burial Benefits?
L&I will pay burial benefits if an injured worker dies as a direct result of an injury or occupational disease. The amount awarded will depend on the date of death See Death and Burial Rates Chart.
How Do I File An L&I Claim For Workers’ Comp Death Benefits?
During this emotional time, it is important to follow the correct steps to file an L&I claim to ensure that you and your loved ones receive the compensation to which you are entitled. Hiring an experienced L&I attorney to help you during this time will be greatly beneficial as you navigate the claims process.
How To File An L&I Claim For Workers’ Comp Death Benefits
If the fatality took place at work, you have three options to file a Washington State L&I claim:
- File by phone at 877.561.3453.
- File online through the L&I website’s File Fast tool.
- File at your doctor’s office.
Who Can File An L&I Claim For Workers’ Comp Death Benefits And An L&I Survivor Pension?
A beneficiary must file the L&I claim for workers’ comp death benefits. Qualified beneficiaries are a spouse, registered domestic partner, or child. If there are no beneficiaries, then a qualified dependent (see above) may file the claim.
To file an L&I claim for workers’ comp death benefits in Washington State, you must provide the following:
- An application filed before the statute of limitations (SOL) ends
- Marriage certificate
- Death certificate
- If minor children are involved, then birth certificates and custody documents (if any)
The SOL to file for death benefits is one year from the injury that led to death and two years or more for the occupational disease that led to death.
What If There Is An Open L&I Claim At The Time Of Death?
If there is an open L&I claim at the time of the worker’s death, the surviving spouse, domestic partner, child, or other dependents can make a formal request to L&I that the benefits pass to them. Benefits included are:
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) award: If the decedent had time-loss benefits or had received a PPD award still owed by L&I at the time of death, it should be paid to one of the aforementioned parties. If none of these parties come forward, then according to the will; if none come forward, then according to intestate distribution scheme. RCW 51.32.040(2).
- L&I Disability Pension: An L&I disability pension is a special category of pension only awarded to the most severely injured If the decedent’s status immediately prior to an unrelated death was that they could never work again, then the workers’ benefits can pass to one of the aforementioned parties.
What is Wrongful Death?
According to the Washington State Legislature RCW 4.20.010, wrongful death happens when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or fault of another person. Wrongful death is different than an L&I death benefit. A claim for L&I death benefits requires that the death happened in the workplace, whereas wrongful death requires proof of fault that the death was caused by another person who is not the employer or a coworker of the decedent.
Wrongful death can result from a number of circumstances:
- Medical malpractice and emergency room accidents
- Automobile and airplane accidents
- Hazardous or defective consumer products
- Criminal behavior
- Dangerous conditions or exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace
Can I Have Both An L&I Death Benefit Claim And A Wrongful Death Claim?
Yes, you can have both an L&I death benefit claim and a wrongful death claim. This results in a third-party claim. L&I states that third-party claims are fault-based, therefore the negligence of the third party must be proven. Unlike workers’ compensation payments, there is no limit to the amount of compensation an injured worker may seek in third-party damages.
When Will My L&I Survivor Pension End?
- If the worker’s death was related to a workplace injury or illness that resulted in an L&I disability pension, the spouse’s L&I survivor pension is for life unless he or she remarries.
- If a worker dies from causes other than the workplace injury or illness that resulted in an L&I disability pension, and an L&I survivor pension was chosen, the surviving spouse’s benefit is for life even if he or she remarries.
- For claims filed before July 1, 1986, a spouse’s L&I survivor pension ends if he or she remarries.
- For surviving children, benefits end at the age of 18 (they may continue up to age 23 if the child is enrolled full-time in an accredited school).
- For other dependents, benefits cease when the need that caused the dependency ends.
What If The Worker’s Death Was By Suicide?
PTSD, trauma, and work-related mental health issues can be just as devastating for workers as suffering a physical workplace injury. Unfortunately, these issues can become more than the worker can handle and they may choose to end their life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, we urge you to get help:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 24 hours a day at 800.273.8255 or text at 988
- Suicide Prevention King County
L&I And Suicide
It can be difficult to obtain the decedent’s L&I benefits in the case of a worker’s suicide. L&I looks closely at cases involving suicide, including whether it was premeditated, and how and why it occurred. Getting the advice of an experienced L&I attorney is incredibly important in this difficult time and situation.
In order to receive L&I death benefits after suicide your case must meet certain criteria. The survivor must show the following:
- The worker’s injury directly caused a mental derangement that led to suicide and that it was not premeditated.
- The suicide occurred from an uncontrollable impulse.
- An allowed medical opinion agrees that the suicide was due to said uncontrollable impulse.
How Do I Know If I Have A Labor & Industries Case?
If you have an L&I claim or wonder if you have an injury case, ask yourself the following:
- Have you been denied the medical care benefits to which you are legally entitled?
- Has L&I asked you to undergo an Independent Medical Exam (IME)?
- Do you have questions about the L&I claim process that you don’t understand?
If any of the above apply to you, you may have a case!
Navigating an L&I claim can be difficult and very time-consuming, especially when you’re ill or injured. You want to focus on healing and make sure your bills are paid, but if you don’t file things properly or on time, your health, home, and job could be in jeopardy. Many individuals miss out on much-needed L&I benefits because they don’t understand what to do or how to get the most compensation for their injuries. If you are experiencing any challenges in your case, a labor and industries attorney can assist you. By contacting Emery | Reddy as soon as possible after you’ve been injured, we can help you avoid the common pitfalls of filing an L&I claim. Our Seattle L&I attorneys are here for you every step of the way.
Emery | Reddy Can Help You With Your L&I Claim
Emery | Reddy is the only law firm in Washington State that is equipped to provide comprehensive representation on your case from every angle. We thoroughly assess every case to determine if our clients have additional claims, and at times this can extend far beyond the underlying workers’ compensation claim.
If you have been injured in the workplace call Emery | Reddy today to speak with our legal team for a free case review. Please remember to have your L&I claim number readily available.
Want More Information?
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Meet The Team
The L&I attorneys at Emery | Reddy are passionate about helping workers with L&I claims and employment law issues. We Help Workers®: it’s our motto and it’s what drives us every day.
We know how L&I and big companies think, and we understand the tactics they use. Our labor and industries attorneys use that knowledge coupled with over two decades of experience to help our clients get access to the L&I benefits to which they are legally entitled and hold employers accountable when they break the law.
If you’re struggling with an L&I claim, injury, or legal issue at work, please call us and see how Emery | Reddy can help you today.