My husband/wife died at work. How will I support myself?

Survivors benefits under workers’ compensation in Michigan and why collecting for a spouse can be an uphill battle.

Yesterday’s blog post was about a Grand Rapids woman who was killed in an industrial accident. Her husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of the robot but could not include the employer.

Workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy. Benefits have been disputed by the employer and the reason is unclear from the newspaper article. We suspect it has something to do with dependency.

Michigan law provides for survivors benefits if an employee dies in a workplace accident. The amount paid is 500 weeks of wage loss benefits at the appropriate compensation rate. This is calculated based upon the employee’s average weekly wage at time of death. A surviving spouse should receive 80% of the after-tax value of the average weekly wage.

Michigan law originally said that a wife was presumed to be a dependent and entitled to receive survivors benefits if her husband died in the scope of employment. The Michigan Supreme Court found this to be unconstitutional gender bias and ruled that neither a wife nor husband should be presumed a conclusive dependent. This language was later removed by the Michigan Legislature.

A spouse, either husband or wife, must now prove factual dependency to receive any wage loss benefits. He or she can be found totally or partially dependent. If only partially dependent, the weekly compensation rate will be reduced. This is based upon a complicated formula that examines how much of the decedent’s income went to the claimed dependent. If it is determined that a spouse received less than half of his or her support from the decedent, dependency is not established and no wage loss benefits are owed.

Our experience shows that insurance companies will stall payment and look for ways to avoid responsibility. Every situation is different and it is best to speak with an attorney about your own situation.

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation today.

Related information:

It is time to fix our shameful workers’ compensation system and provide adequate death benefits in Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Nick J Webb.

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