Workers’ compensation insurance exists to pay for the medical care of injured or sickened workers. Unfortunately, workplace injuries and accidents can sometimes result in the death of a worker. To reflect the ongoing loss of a deceased worker’s income, Rhode Island law spells out who receives weekly payments and for how long.
Spouses Without Dependent Children
A spouse who had been wholly dependent on the deceased worker’s income has the right to collect a weekly check. The workers’ compensation system calculates benefits in relation to the worker’s salary. The death benefit equals the same amount that an injured worker would receive if totally incapacitated and unable to ever return to work. State law calls for a 4% cost-of-living increase every year for these benefits. The insurer continues to direct payments to the surviving spouse until remarriage or death.
The insurer will pay the surviving spouse a weekly death benefit plus $40 per week for each dependent child. In the absence of a surviving spouse, the dependent children receive equal shares of the weekly death benefit that includes $40 per week for each child. In cases where children were only partially dependent on the deceased, the insurer will reduce benefits accordingly.
For the purposes of death benefits, a dependent child is:
- A biological child under age 18
- An adopted child or dependent stepchild under age 18
- A biological child conceived but not born prior to the worker’s death
- An adult age child dependent due to mental or physical incapacity
Able-bodied child dependents normally have their benefits ended upon attaining age 18. However, their benefits may continue while enrolled in an accredited post-secondary education program through the age of 23.