In A Workers’ Compensation Death Claim in Oklahoma, Do I Have To Be Married To Get Widows Benefits?

Workers’ Compensation Death Claim

A workers’ compensation death claim in Oklahoma places legal requirements on a widow before they can collect any proceeds. This kind of claim provides financial compensation to injured workers and their legal dependents. A surviving spouse of a worker who died from a work-related injury may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation death claim. Oklahoma recognizes common law marriages, so the surviving spouse can be someone who was not officially married to the worker but had established a common law marriage according to the state’s laws.

Definitions Of Important Words

Words and phrases used in the Workers’ Compensation law are important in understanding a claimant’s potential rights to compensation. The work injury laws in Oklahoma have changed. Many of the changes are designed to limit benefits to injured workers. To that end the law is very specific with many hoops to jump through.  

Actually Dependent

The Workers’ Compensation Court has defined the term “actually dependent” as any person who receives one-half or more of their support from the worker. This can be a surviving spouse, child, or even a parent who relies for support on the employee who was injured or killed on the job.

For benefits to apply in a death benefits case, the law requires that the injury that led to the death must have happened due to an accident that came out of the “course and scope of employment” the worker was performing. This phrase is defined as any action that the worker was hired for, and that relates to the employer’s business done for the employer’s benefit. This term can also cover the employee’s travel for work purposes—not the day-to-day commuting from home to the workplace in general but trips the worker makes especially to carry out the company’s business, which is directed specifically by the company. But, if the employee dies in any type of accident related to work, including car accidents at work, they will be entitled to workers compensation insurance benefits.

Work Accident 

To be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, the cause of the injury and death must have been an event that was unplanned, unforeseen, and unintended. In other words, it must have happened by accident at work. The law also requires that the events that led to injury and death must have happened at a place and time related to the job. The requirements mentioned are strictly enforced by the employers insurance provider. If there is a way to limit the claim amount they pay this is an area they rely on.

Surviving Spouse

The phrase “surviving spouse” means an individual legally married to the worker who died at the time of the event that led to death. An ex-wife who was divorced in the weeks before the event will not qualify under this definition. There can only be one surviving spouse, rather than anyone who may have been married to the deceased worker at some time in the past. 

Because Oklahoma law recognizes common law marriage, it is possible that the surviving spouse had not had a marriage ceremony with the worker who died, only that they met the legal requirements of a common law marriage. This relationship between the surviving spouse and the deceased worker is not recognized as official until an order from the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court recognizes a common-law marriage between the surviving spouse and the worker. Any order or judgment of any other court has no legal force or effect on the situation.

Elements Of Common Law Marriage

There is no specific law that sets out the conditions that will create a common law marriage, but there are some factors that judges will look at in deciding whether a common law marriage exists, including:

  • Did the couple represent themselves as married? Did they generally act like a married couple to family and the public?
  • Did the couple have joint bank accounts, joint debts, like a mortgage or car payments, or hold property in common, like home ownership or other items?
  • Did the couple file joint tax returns and combine their income into a household income?
  • Was the couple in an exclusive relationship?

Other evidence that might represent that the couple acted as husband and wife in their relationship and to the world, in general, might include evidence of family events like celebrating holidays with extended family together, celebrating anniversaries together, raising kids, and taking vacations together, and similar signs of a marriage-like relationship.

Workers Compensation Reading From Our Tulsa Lawyers Blog.

Tulsa Okla. Workers Comp Attorneys 

A Workers’ Compensation death benefit claim can be a complicated legal proceeding. Forms must be properly filled out and filed in the right venue, and legal evidence requirements must be met as required by law. An experienced Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation attorney at Kania Law Office can provide answers to your questions and guide you through the process. Call us at 918-743-2233 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.

Tulsa's Local Workers' Compensation Lawyers

Law ScaleAre you looking for Tulsa attorneys who will fight aggressively for you? Our team of workers' compensation attorneys have the experience needed in Oklahoma law to secure the outcome you deserve.

Call us today for a free consultation 918-743-2233 or contact us online.