Fatal work accidents and workers’ compensation benefits

On January 19, 2022, an escalator technician was tragically killed while working at Dillard’s in Stony Point Fashion Park. The technician was performing routine maintenance when he apparently fell through the escalator to his death.

Dillard's at Stony Point elevator accident

Photo credit: The Richmond Times-Dispatch

First responders found the technician trapped and unresponsive at the scene. Under Virginia law, if the deceased had been married, or had minor children, his family would be entitled to death benefits under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.

Who is entitled to death benefits under workers’ compensation laws in Virginia?

Section 65.2-515 of the Code of Virginia provides that the following people are conclusively presumed to be dependent on a worker killed in a work-related accident:

  • A wife upon a husband whom she had not voluntarily deserted or abandoned at the time of the accident;
  • A husband upon a wife whom he has not voluntarily deserted or abandoned at the time of the accident;
  • A child under the age of 18 (including stepchildren or adopted children);
  • A child over the age of 18 if physically or mentally incapacitated from earning a livelihood;
  • A child under the age of 23 if enrolled as a full-time student in any accredited educational institute;
  • Parents in destitute circumstances.

flowers in a graveyard

What is included in workers’ compensation death benefits?

Death benefits include:

  • Up to $10,000 in funeral expenses
  • Up to 500 weeks of compensation from the date of the death.

The amount of the weekly payments made to dependents is 66 and two-thirds of what the deceased made, on average, prior to the accident. If there is more than one dependent, the benefits will be divided equally among them. Payments to minor children will cease at the age of 18 unless the child is disabled or enrolled as a full-time student. Payments to a surviving spouse cease if the widow or widower remarries.

Is there a statute of limitations for workers’ compensation death benefits?

Any claim for death benefits must be made within two years of the date of the accident. If not, the insurance company will argue that the claim is barred by the statute of limitations. However, benefits may still be owed if death results within nine years of when the work-related injury happened.

Insurance companies know that when someone is killed in a work-related accident, the claim can be costly. Often the insurance company will look for reasons to deny paying the claim. The insurance company may deny dependency or allege that the deceased violated a safety rule resulting in their death.

It is critical that you contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after a loved one’s death. If you or someone you love has been hurt or killed in a work accident, call Allen and Allen today for a free consultation at 866.388.1307. We are here to help.