Chattanooga Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
Losing someone due to a job injury or illness can leave families shattered, both emotionally and financially. In Tennessee, the workers’ compensation system provides death benefits for eligible family members to relieve the financial hardships that can arise after a workplace death.
Workers’ compensation benefits are supposed to be guaranteed for employees regardless of fault. But these no-fault benefits can be difficult for families to obtain in the wake of their loss. To help your family pursue the full benefits they’re entitled to after a fatal workplace injury, you need an experienced, skilled, and driven Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorney on your side.
The lawyers at Davis Firm, LLC have decades of experience successfully handling death benefits claims for grieving families in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas. Let us help with your claim so that you can have the financial support you need as you move forward from your loss.
To learn more about how we can help, call or contact us today for a free consultation.
Is Wrongful Death Covered Under Tennessee Workers’ Comp?
Tennessee families are entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits as long as their injury happened in the course or scope of the workers’ employment. This is not the same as wrongful death compensation. Let’s break it down carefully:
Wrongful death compensation comes from a successful personal injury claim. Tennessee employers who have purchased workers’ compensation insurance cannot be sued through a personal injury claim. That’s because they have agreed to provide no-fault benefits to their workers. In exchange for not making workers prove someone is to blame for their injuries, they give up their right to sue.
There are some cases in which a wrongful death claim might be possible after a death at work. If a third party (not the employer) acted negligently and those actions caused your loved one’s death, you could have a valid wrongful death claim against the third party.
For example, construction workers often work on sites with multiple subcontractors at once. If your family member was electrocuted due to mishandled live wires, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the subcontractor who should have managed those electrical risks.
Death benefits are different. These come through the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company or the employer’s insurer if they are self-insured. The amount you receive will depend on the workers’ income prior to his/her death, whether there are any surviving spouses or children, and other factors. They also do not include compensation for pain and suffering, but a wrongful death claim could.
Because claims involving worker deaths can get complex, it’s a good idea to work with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure you go through every possible avenue to obtain the compensation your family deserves.
What Benefits Can Be Received in a Wrongful Death Workers’ Comp Claim?
According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, if a deceased worker has no surviving spouse or other dependents, $20,000 will be paid to the worker’s estate.
If the deceased worker has a surviving spouse but no surviving children, the spouse will receive 50 percent of the deceased worker’s average weekly wages, subject to the maximum benefit allowed by state law.
If the deceased worker has a surviving spouse and at least one dependent child, the spouse can receive up to two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wages, also subject to the maximum limits allowed by the law.
Benefits in fatal workplace injury cases are generally paid out on a biweekly basis, and they will continue until the state-mandated maximum benefit is reached.
In addition to these benefits, the deceased’s family can also receive up to $10,000 to cover funeral and burial expenses. For deaths that occurred before May 19, 2017, burial expenses cannot exceed $7,500.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim in Tennessee?
There are several important deadlines to keep in mind when it comes to workers’ compensation claims in Tennessee. The overall statute of limitations on workers’ compensation claims is one year from the date of your injury.
To make sure you file your claim in time, state guidelines say injured surviving family members must notify the employer of the loss within 15 days, even though the employer is likely aware of the death already.
How to File a Claim for Death Benefits Under Tennessee Workers’ Comp Laws
Filing for death benefits is a multi-step process that is time-sensitive and document heavy. As you cope with your loss, muddling through paperwork is probably the last thing that you feel like doing. A workers’ compensation lawyer can do the legwork for you.
Here’s how a workers’ comp death claim progresses:
- You notify the employer. This should be done within 15 days. Be sure to notify the employer in writing, so you have a physical record that you have taken the necessary steps towards receiving death benefits.
- The employer notifies its insurer. The employer is required to file its own report. This is done by completing a Form C-20.
- The insurer notifies the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The insurance company will also send you a copy of the Form C-20 and the state-produced Beginner’s Guide to Tennessee Workers’ Compensation.
- You will receive a Notice of Reported Injury. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will send you a Notice of Reported Injury. This notice does not determine whether your claim has been accepted or denied, but it does let you know that the claims process is moving ahead. This form will also outline some of your potential options if your claim is denied and tell you about the deadlines the insurance company has to investigate your claim.
- The insurer has 15 days to accept or deny your claim. If your claim is accepted, you will start receiving the death benefits you are entitled to.
Should your claim be rejected, there are a few next steps you can take:
- Speak with the insurance adjuster. Sometimes claims are denied for relatively simple reasons that can be resolved with minimal effort.
- File a Petition for Benefits Determination with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. This must be done within one year of the date of injury to your deceased family member. Once the bureau receives your petition, you will be assigned a mediator who will work with you and your deceased family member’s employer to resolve your dispute. If the mediator cannot resolve the disagreement between you and the employer involved in your workers’ compensation claim, the mediator will issue a Dispute Certification Notice (DCN). You have five business days to request any additional information you would like to be added to the DCN. After the five business days have passed, the mediator will file the DCN with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
- Request a hearing before the state Workers’ Compensation Court. This can only be done once the DCN has been filed with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Once the DCN has been filed, you have 60 days to ask for a Workers’ Compensation Court hearing. This is called a Compensation Hearing, and you can ask for the hearing to be expedited if you wish. After the hearing is complete, the judge will issue a decision regarding the benefits you may or may not receive.
- Appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board or the Tennessee Supreme Court. These appeals can only be requested after the judge has issued his/her decision following your Compensation Hearing. If your compensation hearing was expedited, you have seven days to file your appeal. Otherwise, you have 30 days.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
A Chattanooga workers’ compensation lawyer can represent you at any point as you apply for benefits. The best time to contact an attorney is before you start the workers’ compensation process. A lawyer with a history of handling death benefits claims will know whether you are being offered a fair workers’ compensation settlement. In addition, the attorney can examine whether you have any potential third-party claims, which could open the door for additional compensation for you.
If your claim has already been denied and you’re nearing the appeals process, it’s especially important to arrange a consultation with a proven Tennessee workers’ compensation lawyer. Hearings have formal procedures that must be followed. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can take the pressure off by representing you during the appeals stage and advising you about the next best steps.
How Can Davis Firm, LLC Help Me?
Experience and knowledge make a substantial difference in Tennessee workers’ compensation claims, and that’s what have to offer at Davis Firm, LLC. Our legal team has decades of experience representing Tennesseans in both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Whether you’re just getting started filing your death benefits claim or need help with an appeal, Davis Firm, LLC can help you get the benefits you’re owed so your family can focus on healing and moving forward.
To learn more, call or visit our contact page to schedule your free case review.