The number of death claims arising from work place incidents which result in fatality in Australia might surprise many.
You may recall the news reported on 29 November 2019 that a 49-year-old plumber died that morning at the IMAX Theatre construction site at Sydney Darling Harbour when a high-pressure pipe burst, resulting in the worker sustaining significant facial and head injuries, which were ultimately fatal.
Earlier that month, a worker had been crushed to death on 6 November 2019 in another horrific incident when a heavy, steel, tow truck ramp malfunctioned, and landed on a worker’s head.
As at 27 February 2020, Safe Work Australia reported that 28 Australians had already died at work in 2020. In 2019, Safe Work Australia reported that 162 Australian workers had been killed at work that year, compared to 144 workers in 2018.
The loss of a family member so unexpectedly is devastating for families who are left grieving. One does not expect to say goodbye to a loved one, to have that loved one not return home from work. In many instances, the deceased worker was a financially contributing family member who had dependants relying upon him or her.
If the death of a worker arises out of a workplace incident, the dependants may be entitled to seek compensation under the NSW workers compensation scheme, including the cost of funeral expenses and other support payments.
Once the insurer is notified of the death of the worker, the insurer will commence its investigations to determine whether liability for the death is accepted or declined.
If and once accepted, the workers compensation insurer will pay for reasonable funeral expenses, including, funeral director’s professional fees, cost of funeral service, coffin, cemetery site, newspaper notice, flowers, and death certificate, up to the sum of $15,000.
Where there is a death claim a lump sum payment is paid and apportioned between all of the dependants of the deceased family member. In the event that there is only one dependant, the full sum is paid solely to the dependant. The amount paid in lump sum depends upon the date of death. The amount is indexed twice per year in April and October. As at October 2019, the current lump sum amount is $816,850.00.
In addition, if the deceased worker has children up to the age of 16 (or 21 if they are in full-time education), each child may be entitled to receive weekly payments. The amount paid in weekly payments is also indexed twice a year in April and October. As at 1 October to 31 March 2020, the sum payable in weekly payments to each dependent child is $146.20.
The professional costs and disbursements incurred in workers compensation claims, such as death claims, are covered by the government body; the Workers Compensation Independent Review Office (WIRO). Therefore, it is at no cost to dependants to investigate and pursue such claims.
In addition to the benefits for death claims available under the Workers Compensation Scheme, there may be benefits available to the family under the deceased’s superannuation policy, or under any life insurance policies taken out by the deceased.