Oregon Enhances Death Benefits for Fatal Worker Injuries

December 30, 2009

Oregon is enhancing the death benefits available to surviving family members when a worker has a fatality, by expanding the scope of the burial benefit and doubling it to 20 times the state average weekly wage; creating a new benefit for college-aged surviving children; and clarifying that if the worker has no surviving spouse or dependents, the insurer must pay the full remainder of permanent partial disability payments to the worker’s estate.

The changes are a result of Senate Bill 110, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2010.

Among the changes enacted by the bill:

  • When a claim has been filed and the worker dies before a compensability determination is made, the insurer is required to issue a Notice of Acceptance or claim denial for all claims, regardless of the cause of death. The Notice of Acceptance or denial should be addressed to the worker’s estate.
  • If the worker dies after the claim is accepted and classified as disabling, but before a Notice of Closure is issued, the insurer must issue a Notice of Closure, regardless of the cause of death. The Notice of Closure should be addressed to the worker’s estate.
  • The insurer has 60 days to accept or deny the worker’s claim. However, if there are no questions or concerns regarding the compensability, the insurer may want to issue the acceptance notice early. This may alleviate some of the stress the family is dealing with regarding funeral bills and financial responsibilities.
  • If the worker dies as a result of a compensable workers’ compensation injury or occupational disease, the insurer is responsible for paying expenses related to the funeral and disposition of the body. The insurer should pay the expenses up to 20 times the state’s average weekly wage. (See Bulletin 111 for current amount.)
  • Funeral establishments are not required to directly bill the insurer. If the insurer receives direct billing for related expenses, it may directly pay the establishment. If the insurer receives a reimbursement request for related expenses, it may directly pay the requestor. Any unpaid balance must be paid to the worker’s estate no later than 60 days from date of acceptance.

For more information on the changes, as well as the maximum benefits for surviving beneficiaries, visit http://www.cbs.state.or.us/wcd/communications/110.html.

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