Before the advent of the concept of workers’ compensation, a family could be pitched into poverty and ruin if the main breadwinner was killed while at work.
This was, unfortunately, a common occurrence in the days before ‘office work’, when most labour was more physical and more dangerous.
These days, thankfully, the loved ones of someone killed in the course of their employment can be provided for by the coverage of the deceased through a state or territory’s workers’ compensation scheme.
We’ll look at how these so-called ‘death claims’ are assessed in this post, using the NSW legislation as a guide to indicate how such claims operate throughout Australia (though each state has certain specific features which a person should check before making a claim).
What is required to make a death claim?
Under the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW), lump-sum compensation may be payable to the dependents of a person who dies from a work-related death.
It should be first noted that the claim by dependents is restricted to those who die at work with their work playing a substantial factor in the death, rather than just because they were at work.
Once notified of the death, the insurer will notify a worker’s family (or their legal representative) of the process involved in their decision-making process.
The claim will then be investigated. The insurer will require several documents to assess the claim, including work accident reports, statements by the employer and any eyewitnesses, police reports, medical records, an autopsy or coroner’s report, the person’s will, proof of dependency and grant of probate or letters of administration.
Where the insurer accepts liability for a person’s work-related death, dependents of a worker killed in NSW are entitled to a proportion of the death benefit and the payment of funeral expenses. Minors are also entitled to weekly payments until they complete their schooling.
All death benefits, except funeral expenses, are indexed on 1 April and 1 October each year. Currently, in NSW, dependents are entitled to:
- a lump-sum payment ($838,750 until 30 September 2021);
- weekly payments ($150.20 until 30 September 2021) for each dependent child up to the age of 16 (or 21 if they are in full-time education), and
- reasonable funeral expenses
What else is required of dependents in this type of claim?
For the family of someone killed as a result of doing their job to make this type of claim, such as a husband, wife, de-facto spouse or child, they will need to provide proof they were dependent on the deceased and may also be asked to demonstrate their level of dependency on the worker.
It’s also possible for someone who is not related to the person who died to claim if they can prove dependency.
To show you are a family member of the deceased, documentary evidence such as a marriage certificate, joint bank account or tenancy in common will suffice.
A de-facto spouse may be able to do so by showing proof of shared residency (such as electricity bills in both names).
The birth certificates of a dependent child or grandchild of the person who has died may be required, or proof of full-time education for a child over the age of 16.
Several things may be required to prove the claimant’s level of dependence on the deceased, including:
- Tax returns for the three years before the death of both the claimant and the deceased;
- bank statements of both;
- any child support details;
- household payments (bills, etc);
- the claimant’s income.
Sometimes an additional statement may be required by the claimant which provides more detail on the dependency between the claimant and the deceased, including how long a dependent relationship existed, how much loss of dependence affects the family/claimant, and how long it would have continued had the person not died.
Where there is only one dependent, that person will be given the full lump sum benefit. For multiple dependents, the benefit will be apportioned between them.
Speak with our compensation claim experts
At BPC Lawyers, we are specialist personal injury lawyers and compensation lawyers who have helped thousands of people successfully claim compensation, including families who’ve lost a loved one at work.
We will help you organise your claim and undertake all the detailed negotiations with WorkCover NSW or the relevant workers’ compensation authority in other states and territories of Australia to achieve the compensation your family is entitled to.
Call our Worker compensation lawyers in Sydney today for an initial discussion about your case.