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This can be a very difficult question, and is very fact-specific.  The outcome can change from one situation to another.  This article will give a general overview.

In order to quality for death benefits, an individual must be determined to be a dependent of the deceased employee.  Once that has been established, the next step is to determine if he or she is a total or partial dependent, as the amount of the death benefit is based upon that status.

A dependent is someone that relies in whole or in part on the deceased employee for support.   This typically includes the deceased person’s spouse (wife or husband or even a registered domestic partner) and children under the age of 18.  However, a child of any age (who is found to be physically or mentally incapacitated from earning) is presumed to be wholly dependent for support upon the deceased parent.  In addition, when there are no surviving dependents, the parents can also be considered dependents.

A wholly dependent child must either be living with the deceased parent or can be a child that the deceased parent was legally liable for maintaining support of.  A spouse who was married to the deceased employee is also considered to be wholly dependent if that spouse earns $30,000 or less in the 12 months immediately preceding the death.  If the spouse earns more than $30,000 they may still be eligible for partial benefits.  

Dependents are typically children (including posthumous, adopted or stepchild) and spouse of the deceased employee but can also include grandchild, father or mother, father-in-law or mother-in-law, grandfather or grandmother, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, brother-in-law or sister-in-law, and nephew or niece.

Once dependency is established, then the individual’s classification of partial or total dependency is determined.  A total dependent is one who wholly relies upon the deceased employee for support.  A partial dependent is one who relied on support to some degree, but not totally.

There are many different ways someone can be classified as a dependent, in total or in part.  However, at the time of death, a dependent may need the assistance of an attorney to establish this as many different scenarios exist.  This is something that an attorney can help you with.


If you have questions about treatment for your workers' compensation injury and want to talk to an attorney in Fresno, please call 559-408-7436 or fill out the form to the right.

Who is considered a dependent for death benefits?