Benefits are typically payable to the dependents of the worker as defined by the New Jersey workers’ compensation statute when a job-related accident or illness results in the worker’s death. The weekly benefit payment is 70 percent of wages, up to a maximum set by law for the year of the accident. In other words, the maximum total benefit payable to all of the worker’s dependents cannot exceed the maximum dollar amount set by law for the year of the decedent’s work accident. For example, if a worker were to die from a work related accident that occurred in the year 2012, the most that the dependents could claim is a total of $826.00 per week.
A surviving spouse, civil union partner or natural children who were living in the decedent’s household at the time of death are conclusively presumed to be dependents. However, if a surviving spouse, civil union partner or natural child was not a part of decedent’s household at the time of death they must actually prove that they were dependent on the deceased worker to collect any workers’ compensation dependency benefits. Generally if a natural child is receiving child support from the decedent, although not living in the same house, they will be deemed dependent. All other alleged dependents such as parents, grandparents, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, etc. are never assumed to be dependent and must prove actual dependency to collect any dependency benefits at all. A common law wife or husband is not entitled to dependency benefits in New Jersey there must have been a valid marriage for a spouse to obtain dependency benefits.
Children who are deemed dependents remain so until the age of 18 years or, if a full-time student, until the age of 23 years. If a child is physically or mentally disabled they may be eligible for benefits for an extended period of time.
In addition, the workers’ compensation carrier is responsible to pay up to $3,500 in funeral expenses for a job-related death upon proper proof of payment.
The method to obtain dependency benefits is the same as for lifetime benefits. A dependency claim petition must be filed in Trenton with the Department of Labor within two years of the date of death.
Please contact the law firm of Stark and Stark for any of your workers’ compensation questions.