When is an Accidental Death Benefit Payable?
A member’s eligible survivor is entitled to an accidental death benefit if the member’s death is the natural and proximate result of a personal injury sustained or hazard undergone while in the performance of his or her duties and without serious and willful misconduct on the member’s part. The member’s injury must be sustained while he or she is a member-in-service.
Special provisions are applicable to firefighters, police officers, and corrections officers who are killed in the line of duty in certain specific circumstances. (Please refer to the section of this guide entitled, “Death of Firefighters, Police Officers, and Corrections Officers in the Line of Duty.”)
How Will the Injury Report Requirement be Satisfied if the Person Dies?
Whenever a member is injured or exposed to a hazard on the job, the member should notify both his or her employer and retirement board immediately. Usually this is done by filling out an injury report when the injury occurs. This injury report should be filed with the employer, and with the member’s retirement board. This establishes the time, place, and occurrence of the accident for future reference. Of course, if a member dies as a result of an incident or accident at work he or she may not have an opportunity to file such a report. In such a case, as is discussed below, it is very important that the beneficiary file for accidental death benefits within two years of the event which caused the member’s death.
If a member dies from a job-related injury or exposure to a hazard more than two years after the occurrence of the injury or exposure, accidental death benefits will be denied unless a notice was filed with the retirement board within 90 days of the injury or exposure or, if there are records of workers’ compensation payments for the same injury or, if the member is not covered by workers’ compensation, a record of such injury or hazard undergone is on file in the official records of his or her department.
If a Job-Related Accident or Exposure to a Hazard Causes the Death of a Member-in-Service, What Happens to the Amount in the Member's Annuity Account?
The member’s accumulated deductions and related interest will be paid to his or her beneficiaries of record in one sum.
The beneficiaries who receive the accumulated deductions are not necessarily the same as the beneficiaries eligible to receive the pension portion of the accidental death benefit.
What Is the Pension Benefit if the Death of a Member-In-Service is Caused by a Job-Related Accident?
The eligible beneficiary of the member’s pension benefit will receive a yearly pension equal to either 72% of the annual rate of regular compensation, which the member had been earning on the date of injury, or 72% of the average annual rate of regular compensation for the 12-month period for which the member last received regular compensation, whichever is greater. A slightly different formula is used when a member dies in a position in which they were temporarily assigned, i.e., a fire lieutenant temporarily serving as an acting captain.
Who is the Primary Beneficiary of the Pension Benefit?
The primary beneficiary of an accidental death benefit pension is the deceased member’s surviving spouse. The spouse is eligible to receive a pension if the spouse was living with the member at the time of death or was living apart from the member for justifiable cause.
Could Any Eligible Surviving Children Receive Pension Benefits?
If the member leaves no eligible spouse or if the spouse dies after being awarded accidental death benefits, pension payments would be paid instead to a guardian for the benefit of the surviving eligible children.
Who is an Eligible Child?
Any member’s child is eligible who is under the age of 18 and unmarried or who is over the age of 18 and physically incapacitated from earning on the date of the member’s death, or who is under the age of 22 but is a full-time student at an accredited educational institution.
When Will Children Cease to be Eligible to Receive the Aforementioned Pension Payments?
Payments will be made as long as the children remain unmarried and under age 18 or as long as they remain physically or mentally incapacitated from earning, or as long as they are under the age of 22 and remain a full-time student at an accredited educational institution.
What is the Additional Pension Benefit for Dependent Children if a Member's Death is Caused by a Job-Related Accident?
An additional yearly pension will be paid for the benefit of each of the surviving eligible children. To be eligible, a child must be unmarried, under the age of 18 or 22 if a full-time student at an accredited educational institution, or be physically or mentally incapacitated from earning on the date of the member’s death regardless of age. The amount of the benefit depends upon whether or not a local option has been accepted. Because of this, some retirement boards pay $312.00 annually, while others pay $846.12 annually. The $846.12 amount is correct as of the time of this writing, but is subject to change. Please consult your retirement board to see what the amount of additional pension payable will be in your case.
Is There a Maximum Benefit Payable?
The total yearly amount, including the 72% pension and any additional pension for the benefit of eligible children, may not exceed the greater of two rates: the member’s annual rate of regular compensation on the date of injury or the salary the member received during the last year of regular compensation.
If a Member's Surviving Spouse Dies, Could the Member's Surviving Children Become Eligible to Receive the Pension Benefits the Spouse Had Been Receiving?
If the spouse had been receiving the 72% pension before his or her death, that pension plus each child’s additional pension benefit could continue to be accepted by a court-appointed legal guardian on behalf of the surviving eligible children. As noted above, whether a person is eligible to receive $312.00 or $846.12 depends upon whether a local option has been accepted. Please consult your retirement board to see what the amount of additional pension payable will be in your case.
Can Pension Benefits Be Paid to Other Family Members if a Member Leaves No Eligible Spouse or Children?
If a member leaves no eligible spouse or children, the pension benefit would be paid to his or her totally dependent father or mother or both. If the parents are deceased or are not totally financially dependent upon the member, the pension benefit would be paid to any totally financially dependent unmarried or widowed sibling provided that the unmarried or widowed sibling was living with the member when the member died. Pension payments will continue as long as the beneficiary or beneficiaries survive, do not marry or remarry and remain unable to support themselves.
Is the Accidental Death Benefit Affected By Amounts Received From Workers' Compensation?
Amounts received under Workers’ Compensation are offset and therefore reduce the pension portion of the accidental death benefit if the death benefit and the Workers’ Compensation benefit result from the same injury. They do not affect the payment of remaining accumulated deductions.