Rehbock & Wilson
Serving The Alaskan Worker Since 1970
800-477-8574

Unmarried and childless workers lack full death benefits

Many professions in Alaska can have unpredictable work environments. Those who work a more physical job such as an oil field worker, miner, truck driver or construction worker may have an easier time getting their daily exercise in when compared to an office desk job, but they risk their health in many other ways. Because of this, these workers often learn about compensation and death benefits before they go to work so they can prepare on how to recover from physical and financial damage after a major injury or accident on the site.

Unfortunately, the current state laws are more tailored towards certain workers. If a worker dies on the job, there is only a limited amount of people in their lives that can receive full benefits from their death. Workers and their families should familiarize themselves with the state’s current laws on the matter so they know what to expect in the event of the worker’s demise.

Current law

The current state requirements for the employee’s insurance company is to pay $10,000 for funeral expenses and $5,000 to the worker’s surviving spouse and/or children. The state primarily considers widows, biological children, or adopted children to be dependents. The parent’s children can receive benefits up to age 19 or during the first four years of their post secondary education.

The surviving spouse and children can also receive weekly benefits based on the employee’s compensation rate, but the rate depends on if the widow and child are receiving it together or individually. The rate changes every year, so the receiving party should look up the most recent compensation division in Alaska to calculate what they will earn.

No dependents, no compensation

One glaring hole with the state law that some companies take advantage of is that death benefits will only go to dependents. If the employee has no surviving spouse or children, then no one will be able to claim benefits in the state. The state law only allows additional benefits to parents, siblings or grandchildren if they were dependent on the employee right before their death. Otherwise, they will only receive the funeral coverage.

In 2011, an unfortunate family in Alaska experienced these problems firsthand. One couple’s 26-year-old daughter died due to a co-worker’s negligence, and they did not receive any benefits outside of the funeral costs and were not initially allowed to sue the liable employee. The daughter was unmarried and had no children. In response, lawmakers have been proposing laws to allow for greater death benefits for those who lack dependent family members.

The bill has yet to pass, but for now, family members of workers with dangerous jobs in Alaska should consider speaking with a workers’ compensation attorney to help understand their rights in the event of an emergency.

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