The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides benefits for you if you qualify under the law and are injured or become sick because of your work. Your dependents are also entitled to benefits through the LHWCA in the case that you die on the job. Death benefits are important in that they provide your loved ones with compensation if the worst happens. If they depend on you for your income and insurance, these benefits can help when you are no longer there.
If you have a loved one who has died on the job and qualified as a worker under the LHWCA, you have one year after the death to file for benefits. You, or your legal representation, must complete form LS-262 and submit it to the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). With that form you may need to submit documentation including a marriage certificate, birth certificates, medical records, and certification of funeral expenses.
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Widow or Widower Benefits
If you are married, your benefits extend to your spouse in the even that you are killed on the job or an incident or exposure at work contributes to your death. These benefits, if awarded, will be paid to the widow or widower of a deceased worker forever or until a remarriage. The amount a widow or widower receives is equivalent to one-half of the worker’s average weekly wage.
In determining the amount of the benefit, the LHWCA states that the average weekly wage of the deceased employee will be used, but that it cannot be less than the national average weekly wage. If the employee died after retirement, but as a result of work incidents or exposure, the average weekly wage of the 52 weeks before retirement is used to calculate the compensation benefits.
Benefits for Children and Dependents
As a worker in the maritime industry and covered by the LHWCA you can rest assured that your dependent children are entitled to benefits if you die on the job. If you are the dependent child of a deceased employee, your representative can file your claim for benefits on your behalf.
If there is a widow or widower receiving LHWCA death benefits, any dependent children are entitled to one-sixth of the average weekly wage of the deceased. If the widow or widower dies or remarries, any children will begin to receive compensation equal to one-half of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage. If there is more than one child, each receives an increase of one-sixth, but the total compensation cannot exceed two-thirds of the deceased’s average weekly wage.
If there is no living spouse and no living children, LHWCA benefits can be dispersed to other dependents. These could be siblings or grandchildren, but to receive benefits they must satisfy the definition of dependent. In other words, they must have been financially dependent upon the employee at the time of his or her death.
Death benefits through the LHWCA also include coverage of funeral expenses up to $3,000. To receive this benefit, you or your lawyer must complete and file form LS-265, which is a certification of funeral expenses, to the OWCP. It is not very common, but in some rare cases the LHWCA death benefits for funeral expenses may exceed the set limit of $3,000.
The Duration of LHWCA Death Benefits
Benefits paid out to a spouse may be paid until his or her death or until he or she remarries. In the event of a remarriage, the OWCP pays out one final lump sum in the amount of two years’ worth of benefits. For dependent children, grandchildren, or siblings, the payments usually extend until their 18th birthdays. These payments may continue until the age of 23 for any dependent attending college or another type of academic institution. A dependent with a mental or physical disability may also receive extended benefits.
Filing for death benefits when grieving the loss of a loved one isn’t easy. If you are faced with this situation, you can rely on the guidance of an experienced lawyer to get you through it. With a lawyer on your side you can be sure you will get all of the benefits to which you and your children are entitled.