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Understanding workers’ compensation death benefits

If an Iowa spouse receives word that his or her partner has been involved in a serious workplace accident, it sets off a chain of events that may or may not end with a full recovery for the worker. Sadly, if your family member works in industries such as construction or agriculture, workplace accidents are high-risk for fatalities. The workers’ compensation program often provides benefits to surviving spouses if they file a claim after their loved ones’ death.  

Navigating the workers’ compensation system can be challenging, especially if you are grieving the loss of your loved one. At the same time, the process can provide much needed financial support to families who may not be prepared to meet funeral expenses or other debts associated with the incident that resulted in fatal injuries to a family member. It is important to know how to file a death-benefits claim as well as where to seek additional support if a problem arises.  

How much financial support do death benefits provide? 

If you’re a spouse who has filed a workers’ compensation death benefits claim, the amount of money you receive will be based on your loved one’s gross weekly wages. If the insurer tries to deny your claim or takes longer than necessary to provide benefits, you may qualify for additional compensation.  

If you’re collecting benefits as a surviving spouse, payments will continue for the rest of your life, unless you remarry at some point. Your minor children will receive benefits until they reach age 18. If a child is incapacitated, benefits continue throughout his or her life.  

Ambiguous language regarding funeral expenses 

Iowa law also states that, as a surviving spouse of a fatally injured worker, you may be able to collect benefits that cover funeral expenses. However, the terminology in the policy statements is somewhat ambiguous, saying only that a surviving spouse may collect a “reasonable” amount for funeral costs. The question then becomes: what is reasonable?  

As you’re grieving a loss and helping your children learn to move on in life without their other parent, the last thing you need to worry about is workers’ compensation terminology. This is why it’s helpful to speak with someone who has helped other grieving families to navigate the system. By relying on such support, you may be able to alleviate stress and ensure that you will collect the maximum amount of benefits to which you may be entitled.