Overview of Death Benefits In New York Workers’ Compensation

New York workers’ compensation law allows for benefits if a work-related injury causes death under NY WCL §16. A death can be considered work-related if it is due to a specific injury or due to an occupational disease/condition.

The decedent’s surviving spouse, children, parents, or estate may be entitled to death benefits. In addition to indemnity benefits, the carrier/employer is responsible for funeral expenses.The Workers’ Compensation Board sets a schedule for funeral expenses, currently up to $6,000.

If there are no surviving dependents entitled to receive death benefits, N.Y. Work. Comp. Law §16(4-b) provides that the sum of $50,000 must be paid to the surviving parents or if there are no surviving parents, to the decedent’s estate.

The rate of the the death benefit is in general subject to the same statutory minimum and maximum benefit rate as any other wage loss benefit. Death benefits are only due if the death is causally related to work. If an injured worker is collecting either temporary disability benefits or permanency benefits but passes away due to an unrelated illness, death benefits and funeral expenses are not owed.

Generally, the surviving spouse receives benefits for the remainder of their life, expect in situations where they remarry. In situations where the surviving spouse remarries, the spouse receives a lump-sum of two years of benefits [N.Y. Work. Comp. Law § 16(1-b)].

With respect to indemnity benefits, if there is solely a surviving spouse with no minor children and no children who are either blind or physically disabled, the surviving spouse receives 66.667% of the deceased’s average weekly wage up to the statutory maximum rate at the date of death. If there are minor children in addition to the surviving spouse, there is no increase in the overall indemnity benefit, the benefit rate is divided amongst the surviving spouse and all minor children. In situations where there are more than one surviving child;, the surviving spouse receives 36.667% of the weekly benefit rate and the children divide the remaining 30% equally. Surviving children’s benefits will cease once they turn eighteen, or twenty-three years old for full-time students. [N.Y. Work. Comp. Law § 16(2-a)].

Declan is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey, New York and the U.S. District Court of New Jersey. Declan is a Partner at Lois LLC where he defends employers and carrier in New York workers’ compensation claims. He can be reached directly at dgourley@lois-llc.com or 201-880-7213.