Workers compensation death benefit pays out when an employee dies as a result of a work-related injury, or when a permanently totally disabled employee dies from any cause, in which event his or her dependents are entitled to a death benefit.

If the deceased injured worker is survived by at least one person who is wholly dependent on him or her for support, the benefit is 4 times the employee’s average annual earnings (or 200 times the employee’s average weekly wage), subject to the maximum and minimum limitations. See Wis. Stat. §§ 102.46 , 102.11. This is most obviously a spouse or minor child.

Dependents of an injured employee who dies while receiving disability benefits are entitled to death benefits even if the level of permanent partial disability (PPD) has not yet been formally established. See Edward Bros. v. LIRC, 2007 WI App 128 , 300 Wis. 2d 638 , 731 N.W.2d 302.

According to section 102.51(2)(a) , “[n]o person shall be considered a dependent unless that person is a spouse, a domestic partner under Wis. Stats. Ch. 770, a divorced spouse who has not remarried or a lineal descendant, lineal ancestor, brother, sister, or other member of the family, whether by blood or by adoption, of the deceased employee.” The court has held that a live-in companion and the child of a live-in companion (who is not also a child of the deceased) are not a “member of the family.” See Armstrong v. Industrial Comm’n, 161 Wis. 530, 532 , 154 N.W. 844 (1915) and T.J. Moss Tie Co. v. Industrial Comm’n, 251 Wis. 57 , 27 N.W.2d 725 (1947). The status of “member of the family” need not be based on blood relationship but cannot derive from a relationship that is not legally recognized. A nonbiological or nonadopted child living with the employee as a member of the family at the time of injury is deemed a child of the marriage of the employee and the employee’s surviving spouse and thus is entitled to Children’s Fund benefits. Wis. Stat. Sec. 102.49(2). In addition, a nonmarital child of the deceased employee is a “member of the family,” if the child is otherwise qualified as a dependent under Sec. 102.51(1)(a). A posthumous child of the deceased employee is a dependent. Wis. Stat. Sec. 102.51(4).

Pursuant to Wis. Stats. Sec. 102.51(4) all determinations as to dependency are made on the date of death, not the date of injury.

McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin obtains workers compensation death benefit for families of injured workers.