Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
Tragically, a 27-year-old construction worker recently died on the job at the worksite of a preparatory school in Potomac, Maryland, as reported by The Washington Post. The incident occurred when the victim and his colleagues were moving a portable building, and when something went wrong, the building struck the 27-year-old worker. He died at the scene of the accident, and an investigation by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Department is still ongoing. Typically, these investigations find one of the following:
- The worker ignored protocol.
- The worker did not receive proper training, instructions, or safety equipment from his or her employer.
- Another worker made a mistake.
- The employer asked the worker to do something dangerous or against code. Or,
- It was a freak accident, such as a piece of hardware unexpectedly failing.
In the vast majority of cases, the employer faces no penalties, or is slapped with a relatively minor fine and regulatory penalty. In very few cases is the worker’s family able to successfully sue the employer for egregious negligence, and therefore, is unable to collect anything beyond workers’ compensation death benefits.
If an investigation uncovers egregious wrongdoing on behalf of the employer, the victim’s family may sue for additional compensation in the form of pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of a financial provider, etc. However, this is rare, and most often, the victim’s family will be entitled only to death benefits, as described below.
Calculating Maryland Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
While a deceased Maryland workers’ family may not be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the employer, it can take some solace in the fact that Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation Commission allows loved ones (including spouses, children, and other dependents) up to two-thirds of the victim’s average weekly wage if the deceased worker was the sole breadwinner. As such, if the worker earned $500 per week, and his or her spouse did not earn an income, the spouse would receive two-thirds of $500 per week, or $333.
However, when there are sources of income from other family members, such as the spouse, the deceased worker’s average weekly wage is divided by the total household income to determine the percentage of income that the deceased contributed to the whole, before the death. That percentage is then multiplied by two-thirds of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage to determine the weekly compensation for the family. For example:
- The deceased worker’s average weekly wage is $500.
- The household weekly wage average is $900.
- $500 divided by $900 is 56 percent, which is the percentage contribution that the deceased worker made to the household income.
- Two thirds of $500 is $333.
- $333 multiplied by 56 percent is $186—the weekly amount the family would receive, paid for between five and 12 years, in some cases either longer or shorter.
The average weekly wage limit in Maryland is $1,094 for 2018, and the total lifetime benefit limit is set at $73,690 for fatalities that occur in 2018.
Call Maryland Workers’ Compensation Attorney Tara K. Frame
We understand your anger, frustration, and confusion as to why your loved one’s employer is not being held financially responsible, let alone criminally responsible, for a death that it potentially caused. While a lawsuit may or may not have a chance of succeeding, the workers’ compensation attorneys of Frame & Frame will do everything in their power to maximize your compensation as the survivors. Contact our Pasadena law offices today at 410-255-0373.