If an injured worker dies as a result of his or her work accident, then benefits will go to the worker’s dependents. There are two categories of dependents. The first is called presumptive dependents. They are defined by the worker’s compensation law as any of the following:
1. Spouse of deceased (as long as he or she does not re-marry).
2. Unmarried children under the age of twenty-one who are living with the employee at the time of death.
3. Unmarried children under the age of twenty-one who are not living with the employee at the time of death but for whom the employee has a legal support obligation.
4. Children over twenty-one who have never been married and are mentally or physically handicapped, or are keeping house for the employee and not otherwise gainfully employed.
An award of death benefits would be equally divided among all of the deceased’s presumptive dependents.
The other category of dependents called dependents-in-fact includes individuals related by blood or marriage who are dependent, either totally or partially, upon the deceased employee. This might include, for example, a nineteen year old niece being raised and supported by an aunt that was killed on the job, or a father-in-law who was being cared for by his son-in-law who is now deceased after an on-the-job accident. Total dependents-in-fact will be entitled to death benefits only if there are no presumptive dependents at the time of the worker’s death.