I am getting checks every week and my employer is paying my bills. What happens to my claim if I die right now?

The answer to that question first depends on whether or not the reason for your death is medically related to your original injury. Let’s first take the situation where death is related to your condition from your work injury.

In that scenario, your dependents can only receive death benefits if your death occurs within two years of the final adjudication of disability, or within six years of your original injury, whichever is later. Therefore, if you have been off of work for a long time, and there appears to be little chance that you will return, your employer/comp carrier may ask you to sign an agreement that you are permanently and totally disabled. Once that is approved by the Commission, the two years begins to run.

The benefits are 500 weeks of compensation and up to $10,000.00 for burial expenses.
See N.C.G.S. sec. 97-38.

There is no question that this section is harsh and is not fair. If you do not die before the time runs out, your family may be deprived of benefits;

But– there may still be some money available to your dependents, even if you are beyond the six years. It is an arguable point of law; however, if your doctors have rated you on each of your injured body parts, your dependents may be entitled to recover based on the ratings your doctors gave you. Of course, it is likely that the payments will be much less than under the death benefits statute; however, at least it is something.

Now, let’s take a situation where you die because of something completely unrelated to your work injury. In that scenario, your dependents would be entitled to all un-accrued benefits to which you would have been entitled had you lived. This refers primarily to once again, permanent disability ratings on each of the body parts which you may have injured in your work injury.