In our Georgia workers’ compensation law practice, one of the most tragic situations that we run across is a man or woman dying as a result of a work-related injury. When a work-related death occurs, the workers’ compensation law in Georgia provides benefits to dependents of the deceased worker. In this series of articles, I will try to provide an understanding of what dependency benefits are available as well as to whom and for how long those benefits are available.
Presumed total dependendents – spouse and children
The initial question to answer in a case of a work-related death is what individuals were dependent on the deceased worker. In some cases, there may be no dependents. In other cases, there are many. Individuals with certain relationships are automatically presumed to be dependent under the Georgia workers’ compensation law.
For example, the spouse and children of the injured worker are automatically presumed to be totally dependent. This presumption means that the spouse and children do not have to establish actual dependence to receive dependency benefits.
It is also important to note that “children” does not just include biological children. For purposes of dependency benefits, “children” includes dependent stepchildren, legally adopted children, posthumous children, and acknowledged children born out of wedlock.
Dependents other than spouse and children
In addition to the spouse and children, other people who were dependent in whole or in part on the deceased worker can qualify as total or partial dependents. However, in order to recover benefits, those individuals have to prove that they were actually dependent on the deceased worker.
Georgia law defines a dependent as someone who looked to the injured worker for financial support or support in order to maintain the standard of living to which that person had become accustomed. Glen Falls Indemnity Co. v. Jordan, 56 Ga. App. 449, 193 S.E. 96 (1937). So, in order to establish dependency, it is not necessary to prove that the potential dependent would not have been able to survive without the injured worker’s contributions as long as the person looked to the deceased worker to maintain the standard of living to which he or she was accustomed.
In my next blog post in this series, I will provide a basic overview of what dependency benefits are available under Georgia workers’ compensation law.