A death at work: Assistance to the family

Friday 2 August 2019
Tina Toutzaris-Sabo

The work-related death of a loved one leaves tremendous emotional heartache, and sadly it can also come with potential financial hardship – particularly where the family breadwinner is lost.

Supporting the ‘dependants’ of a deceased worker is the Victorian WorkCover legislation; or for those employed by the Commonwealth or a prescribed large business, Comcare. This is a ‘no-fault’ compensation scheme that provides financial support and assistance.

To be eligible for this help, ‘dependency’ must be established. A dependent is a partner or child who was wholly, mainly or partly dependent on the deceased worker’s earnings. Often dependency is straight forward. For example: a partner living with the deceased worker at the time of death is deemed to have been dependent on the deceased’s earnings.

If a deceased worker is under 21 years of age, leaves no dependent partner or child, and immediately prior to their death was contributing to the maintenance of the family home, the deceased worker’s family are deemed to have been partly dependant on his or her earnings.

Under WorkCover, if the worker died as a result of a work-related injury or illness the dependents may be entitled to compensation as follows:

  • A lump sum benefit payments may be made to dependents of a worker of $623,950 (as at 1 July 2019). This sum is divided amongst eligible dependents in accordance with a formulas prescribed in the WorkCover law
  • A weekly pension for dependent partners, children or orphans. Dependent partners are entitled to receive the pension for three years and children up to 16 years of age or 25 years of age if undertaking full time studies or an apprenticeship
  • The costs of medical expenses and services provided to the deceased worker up to the date of death, including ambulance, hospital care and other medical services
  • The reasonable costs of burial or cremation
  • The reasonable cost of family counselling services
  • The reasonable cost of travel and accommodation expenses (where a burial or cremation service is held more than 100km from their normal residence)
  • Reimbursement of expenses for non-dependent family members in cases of financial hardship.

A dependency claim is lodged by completing the form ‘Claim for Compensation following a Work-Related Death’ and submitting it to the deceased worker’s employer. A claim must be made within two years of the date of death, but may be extended under special circumstances.

Disputed dependency claims are determined by the Magistrates’ Court or County Court.

Dependents of a deceased worker may also be entitled to sue for further compensation where the death was due to the fault of the employer or another party.

Any previously received WorkCover dependency payments received must be deducted from court award or settlement. Therefore legal advice must be obtained about the appropriate action to take.

For more information and to discuss your legal rights, contact Adviceline Injury Lawyers on (03) 9321 9988 to speak to a personal injury law expert.

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