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Workers' Compensation & Death Benefits: What You Need to Know

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This guide provides a general overview and summary of the death benefits available for fatal claims in the state of Pennsylvania. If a family member has died while on the job, you may be entitled to these benefits. Because each case is fact specific, you should contact an attorney immediately.


If a worker dies in the course and scope of his employment, weekly benefits and burial expenses are provided under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act. Dependents entitled to weekly benefits may include a widow or widower, children under the age of 18, older children in certain circumstances, and possibly parents, and brothers and sisters. Fatal claims benefits may be paid to other family members depending on the specifics of each case, and should be discussed with an experienced attorney. The current payment for funeral expenses is $3000.00.

Benefits payable to widow or widower

A widow or widower is entitled to benefits for life unless they remarry. If there is a remarriage, then a “dower” of 104 weeks will be paid as a lump sum. Common law marriage is no longer recognized for workers’ compensation purposes, however, those common law marriages entered into prior to January 1, 2005 are deemed valid. The amount of benefits payable is determined on the date of the injury causing death.

Benefits payable to children

Children will be precluded from receiving benefits directly unless there is no widow or widower entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. For workers’ compensation purposes, the term “children” includes all natural and posthumous children, whether legitimate or illegitimate. If the children of a deceased employee are living with different guardians, the Act provides for a payment schedule to ensure the benefits are spread among the surviving children. When benefits are payable to children, the benefits are payable until the age of 18 unless the child is dependent because of a disability; in that case, the payments will continue during the child’s disability.

Benefits payable to parents and siblings

Both parents and siblings are required to show dependency on the deceased worker to be entitled to benefits. Once benefits are paid to a parent, they will continue until the parent dies or is remarried. The issue of dependency of a parent is fact specific and decided on a case by case basis, and may be affected by the receipt of other income.

About the Author

Francis J. Lafferty, IV, is a Partner with Norfleet & Lafferty, LLC. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation cases. It is important that you speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you receive all of the benefits you may be entitled to because of a work injury or death. To have your case evaluated by an experienced workers compensation attorney, call now: 717-737-7574, for a Free Consultation. Or visit Attorney Lafferty’s Google+ Page.

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