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When the unimaginable occurs and a family member suffers a work-related fatality, the survivors are forced to consider how the family will support itself and make ends meet.  While no amount of money will ever replace the loss of a mother or father or other family member, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system provides one of the fairest programs in the country for compensating a family for its loss of income. 

Legislative changes made to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act in 2005 have made it possible for the surviving spouse of an employee who has died as a result of a work-related injury or disease to (depending on when the accident occurred) receive a weekly workers’ compensation benefit for a period of 25 years or $500,000.00, whichever is greater.  Again, depending on when the accident occurred, the minimum weekly rate of compensation is $441.93, and the maximum rate is $1,178.48.  Therefore, the minimum annual amount that can be received is $22,980.36 while the maximum annual recovery of death benefits is $61,280.96. 

Prior to the 2005 change in the law, the death benefit to the surviving spouse would have been $250,000.00 or 20 years, whichever was greater.  It is obvious that the recent changes have benefited the working people – a development that likely comes as a surprise given the anti-union sentiment that has characterized the current administration in Washington, D.C. and the misdirected tort reform (or, more accurately, tort deform) movement that continues to undermine the efforts of organized labor, public interest groups and the like to protect and speak for those who have been seriously injured at the workplace.

NOTE:  If a widow or widower were to remarry before the maximum death benefits have been paid, the workers’ compensation insurance company or employer would then pay the surviving spouse a lump sum equal to two (2) years of benefits, but nothing further.  However, even in the event of remarriage, there may be instances where there are minor children or dependents involved in which case the lump sum payment does not necessarily cut off future benefits.

In an upcoming blawg, I will talk about the death benefits that are available in Iowa.

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