In Maryland, if the injured worker suffers death from a cause unrelated to their injury, their right to compensation unpaid at death transfers over to the surviving dependants, if there are any. Dependency is determined based on the date of the accident, not the claimant’s death. If there are no dependants, the unpaid compensation survives equally to the worker’s spouse, if the worker had a legal obligation to support the spouse, and to their minor children. If worker had no obligation to support their surviving spouse, the right to compensation survives only to his minor children.
The amount of money that survives differs based on whether the injury was deemed a Permanent Total Disability or a Permanent Partial Disability. For a Permanent Total Disability case, up to $45,000 will survive the death of the claimant, along with a credit for the amount of the award paid already. The Commission may make a posthumous award of compensation even though the amount of permanent impairment was not rated by a physician before the worker died. In Permanent Partial Disability cases, the remaining portion of the award will survive the claimant’s death if death occurs before the award is issued, their attorney should be able to acquire a rating, and obtain a posthumous award. If the claimant had a claim involving the Subsequent Injury Fund, there is no survival of these monies.
If a claimant is in poor health or has a decreased life expectancy, it is sensible for their attorney to seek settlement. Settlement agreements survive a claimant’s death and their settlement payments continue to be paid to their estate by the employer or insurer and by the Subsequent Injury Fund.
If the worker dies from any subsequent compensable injury, even ones completely unrelated to the original compensable injury, the original award of compensation terminates and the dependants are entitled to receive only death benefits for the subsequent compensable injury.