Worker’s compensation protects workers who are injured or killed on the job. This money provides compensation for lost wages and other money spent on treating injuries or illnesses incurred while working. Alabama law requires employers to provide workers comp in certain circumstances.

It’s important to know and understand your rights in these situations. Here are four common questions and answers that are important to understand when it comes to workers’ compensation laws.

When Must Employers Pay Workplace Compensation?

Employers must pay workplace death claims if four conditions are met.

Condition 1: Types of Employers Responsible for Workers’ Compensation Claims

The first condition covers what types of employers are responsible for workers’ compensation claims. In Alabama, the employer must have five or more employees to be responsible for workers compensation and must purchase insurance to cover these claims. Employers who transport goods across state lines, or employ farm laborers or domestic servants are excluded from this law.

Condition 2: The Injury Comes from an Accident

Second, the injury must come from an accident. The accident might be truly accidental, such as tripping over a box, or it could come from repetitive strain, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Illnesses, including reactions to toxic chemicals, or reactions to allergens, are also covered by workers comp. Additionally, injuries or illnesses, such as heart conditions, that are exasperated by working conditions, can be covered in a workers comp claim, including when they prove fatal.

Condition 3: The Injury is Work-Related

Third, the injury must be related to the work the employee does as part of their employment. For example, a warehouse worker hurting their back while lifting boxes at work would have a work-related injury. A warehouse worker throwing out their back while playing basketball during their lunch break would not have a work-related injury.

Condition 4: The Employer Needs to be Notified about the Injury

Finally, the employee has to tell the employer about the injury. In cases where the employee survives the workplace accident, they must file a form with their employer to claim this benefit.

What Benefits Do Employers Pay in Workplace Death Compensation Cases?

In workers’ compensation claims when the employee is killed on the job, the employee is responsible for paying several different types of benefits to the surviving family members of the deceased worker.

Burial expenses

The employer is responsible for paying the deceased employee’s burial expenses, up to $6,500. If the worker has private burial insurance, the employer is still responsible for paying up to this amount for the burial.

Medical treatment

If the worker incurred any medical bills as a result of their injury before passing away, these bills should be covered by workers’ compensation. This might include bills related to an ambulance, surgery or hospital stay before death.

Lost wages

The largest benefit in a workers’ compensation death claim is lost wages. In Alabama, employers must pay a percentage of the deceased worker’s salary for 500 weeks, which comes to just over nine and a half years.

If the employee had one dependant, the employer must pay 50% of the worker’s average weekly earnings for this time. If the employee had two or more dependants, the employer must pay two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly earnings.

What Limitations are there in Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?

There are two types of limitations on workers’ compensation that may prevent a family from receiving death benefits.

Cause of the injury or illness

Alabama does not require employers to pay workers compensation in certain circumstances. Generally, if the employee did something that caused their death under these circumstances, the employer isn’t responsible for paying death benefits. This includes:

  • If the employee tried to injure themselves or another person,
  • If the employee was intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs,
  • If the employee did not use proper safety gear provided by the employer, and
  • If the employee did not perform a statutory duty, such as driving within the speed limit, or did not follow a safety rule set in place by the employer.

Employers may claim that a deceased worker caused the injury, by arguing that the employee acted wrongly. It’s important that a thorough investigation be done, to ensure that the deceased employee’s family can receive the full amount of their workplace death claim.

Additionally, if the worker died from an intentional act committed by someone else, this may not be a workers’ compensation claim.

For example, if a grocery store worker was killed by a drunk driver in the store’s parking lot, the grocery store wouldn’t be responsible for a workplace death claim. However, the worker’s family could bring a wrongful death claim against the drunk driver.

Statute of limitations

The second limitation is the statute of limitations. These statutes limit the time when someone can file a claim. In Alabama, a claim for workplace death compensation must be filed within two years of the event that lead to the death, not the date of death. This is important to remember because someone could be injured on the job but not die for some time afterward.

Employers aren’t responsible for death claims brought after this date, so it’s important to act quickly to preserve your rights.

Who Can Receive Death Benefits in a Workers’ Compensation Case?

Spouses and children of deceased workers are allowed to receive these death benefits for 9.5 years after death.

If the employee has no dependents, then $7,500 in death benefits are paid to the deceased’s estate.

Exercising Your Rights in a Workers’ Compensation Death Claim

If you believe you are entitled to workplace death compensation, contact the experienced attorneys at the law offices of Strickland & Kendall, LLC today. It’s important to act quickly before time runs out on your claim.

While money can’t bring a loved one back, a workers’ compensation attorney can help you make sure that your deceased loved one’s employer pays the full amount they’re responsible for.