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Know your rights after a fatal construction workplace accident

Having a loved one work in construction can be quite stressful. Every day when he or she leaves for work, you probably worry about the potential for an injury. After all, construction workers face relatively high rates of injuries while working, as well as the risk of a fatal injury. There are many kinds of accidents that can happen in an instant, from an electrocution to a fall or falling objects.

For some families, the worst case scenario, which is the loss of a loved one as a result of a work incident, eventually becomes reality. If you have recently suffered the loss of a loved one due to a work site accident, you should familiarize yourself with your rights as a survivor.

For many families, workers' compensation can help

When a loved one sustains an injury or dies while working, that typically means the victim or that person's dependents are eligible for workers' compensation benefits. In the case of a fatal work-related accident, family members of the deceased could receive death benefits related to the accident.

Only certain people have a right to claim the death benefit under New York's workers' compensation law, including a surviving spouse, any children of the deceased, grandchildren, parents, grandparents or siblings. Family members should do their best to file a claim for benefits as soon as possible after an incident.

What benefits are available from workers' compensation?

Survivors' workers' compensation benefits take two forms, which are funeral expense benefits and death benefits. For those who were working in Bronx, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties, the total available funeral expense benefit is $12,500. In most cases, this benefit goes to the family members, but in situations where the estate of the deceased pays for the funeral, the funeral expense benefit may directly reimburse the estate instead.

Of course, when you lose a loved one who was also a wage earner, your family incurs more than just expenses related to funeral services and burial or cremation. You will also experience the ongoing loss of income from the deceased, which can have a devastating impact on your family's finances.

Surviving spouses typically receive 2/3s of the average weekly income of the deceased, up to a maximum benefit determined by the state average weekly wage. A surviving spouse may receive the full benefit, or in some cases, split it with the children. If the surviving spouse remarries, he or she will receive a two year lump sum payment, with benefits ending after that.

For those without a spouse or children, their dependent parents or grandparents may receive up to 40 percent of their average weekly salary, provided they qualify for the benefit. For those with no dependent spouse or children but dependent siblings or grandchildren, those dependents may each receive 25 percent of the average weekly pay of the deceased. In cases with no spouses, children or dependents, the estate or the parents of the deceased will receive a one-time benefit of $50,000.

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