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The Texas Workers’ Compensation Act requires an employer’s insurance company to pay death benefits to all legal and eligible beneficiaries after a work-related injury that results in the death of an employee.  The most common beneficiary is the workers’ spouse.  In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know to collect death benefits as the spouse of an employee killed on the job.

Filing For Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

The first thing you will have to do is file a claim for workers’ compensation death benefits.  You must file form DWC042 within one year of your spouse’s death in order to file a timely claim.  Once you complete the form, it can be faxed to the Division of Workers’ Compensation.  At the time of this writing, the proper fax number to use is (512) 804-4378. 

When you file this form, you will provide the names and addresses of all potential beneficiaries.  You will also need to provide copies of documents proving your relationship to the employee.  Usually, this would include a birth certificate and a marriage certificate. 

How Much Are Death Benefits And How Long Are They Paid?

Death Benefits are paid at 75% of the employee’s average weekly wages prior to the accident.  Usually, these benefits are paid by check and mailed out weekly.  The benefits can be paid monthly if you reach an agreement with the insurance company to do so.

As the spouse, you are entitled to receive death benefits for the rest of your life unless you get remarried.  If you get remarried, the benefits terminate.  When you get remarried, you will get a lump sum payment equal to 104 weeks of benefits.  This is called a dowry.  However, If your spouse was a first responder, benefits will continue for life EVEN IF you get remarried.

Issues That Affect Your Right To Benefits

Other family members may also have a claim for death benefits.  If they have valid claims, their cut reduces your cut of the benefits.  For instance, minor children have a claim for death benefits until they are 18 (or 25 if enrolled in school).  The kids will split half of the benefits while you get the other half.  Parents and dependents may also have claims for benefits, though it is harder for them to get anything as long as a spouse is alive.

As the spouse, you stand in the way of everybody else trying to get a piece of the death benefits.  Someone may want to try to defeat your claim for benefits so that they can get benefits.  There are two common ways this happens. 

The law says that a spouse is eligible for death benefits unless the spouse has abandoned the deceased employee for “longer than the year immediately preceding the death without good cause….”  This means that if you and your spouse were separated for a year prior to the death of the employee, then you don’t get benefits unless there was a good reason for the separation.

The second way a spouse gets attacked is by another family member arguing that there never was a marriage.  This occurs frequently in a common law marriage situation.  You can protect yourself by gathering up any documentation you can find that shows you were married.  Tax records, bills, lease agreements, banking records or anything else that showing have held yourself out as married will work.

Additional information about death benefits, and other workers’ compensation issues, is available in our free book for injured workers, “The Ultimate Survival Guide For Texas Injured Workers:  Everything You Need To Know To Beat Insurance Companies At Their Games.”  Download it for free right now for future reference.