While workplace deaths in Wisconsin are occurring less frequently, the unfortunate reality is that they still happen. Workplace fatality statistics can be found here.
Another worker died recently while at work: Man Dies in Kaukauna Trench Collapse. It appears a man was working in a trench in Kaukauna when it collapsed.
These accidents are tragedies for everyone involved. And worker’s compensation is an inadequate remedy. Under the Worker’s Compensation Act, there are potential death benefits available to a deceased workers “dependents.” If a worker dies from a workplace incident, the death benefit is equal to four (4) times the worker’s annual earnings (subject to a cap). The insurance carrier also is responsible for burial expenses, currently up to $10,000.
The law also defines who is a statutory “dependent” eligible for the death benefits-generally a live-in surviving spouse or surviving child/children under the age of 18. However, the laws related to dependent death benefits are incredibly ambiguous and frequently litigated, as the possibility exists for other types of dependents to make claims (including non-live-in spouses, disabled children over 18, parents, and other familty members). It is wise to consult with an experienced worker’s compensation attorney if there are issues regarding who is/is not a dependent of an deceased worker under Wisconsin law.
If there are no dependents of a deceased worker, the insurance carrier pays the death benefits amount to the State Fund.