In the tragic event that an employee dies in the course of his or her job, the State Board Of Workers’ Compensation will ask whether the deceased worker had any dependents who would be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Who is a Dependent?
Generally, the deceased employee’s spouse and his or her child are presumed to be “dependents” in Georgia. However, any other person can potentially be classified as a “dependent” provided that he or she was financially supported by the deceased employee. A claimant, who is not presumed to be dependent, must prove total or partial dependency in fact. O.C.G.A. §34-9-13 (d). The actual dependency must be shown on the date of the accident AND have existed three (3) months or more prior to the accident. Dependency must not come from a meretricious relationship (living as a married couple but not legally married).
What benefits are provided?
Alleged dependents may receive an amount in proportion to the amount contributed by the employee from his average weekly wage. However you must consider the following:
- Amounts of payment and to whom (did the decedent pay the mortgage company or did he pay you);
- Frequency of payments and to whom (were payments made every week, once a month, once every other month, or on a less regular basis); and
- Continuity of actual contribution by the employee (were these payments made consistently, every pay check or every month or were there large gaps in between).
Cash or supplies or even sporadic payments in irregular amounts may qualify. However, no allowance shall be made for any payment made in lieu of board and lodging or services.
Essentially, the ultimate question will be whether the alleged dependent relied upon the deceased employee’s contribution to enjoy an “ordinary and reasonable” standard of living suitable to the dependent’s position in life.
How long will I get benefits?
For presumed dependents, partial dependency terminates at age 65 or after payment of 400 weeks, whichever is greater. The Court of Appeals has not addressed duration of “dependents in fact”. But see, United States Fidelity & Guarantee Co. v. Dumbar, 112 Ga. App. 102 (1965).
Like most cases, a “paper trail” or accounting of finances will be the key in proving an entitlement to benefits. For example, the judge will ask for bank statements, tax filings, cancelled checks, letters from decedent, and wire transfers.
If you’re attempting to recover benefits due to the loss of a loved one while they were on the job, please contact us today to learn more about the specifics involved in your case.