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Can workers’ compensation be granted to a deceased worker’s estate?

Written by Ankin Law Office

A recent Oregon case brings up an issue that may concern Illinois workers. The case, Sather v. SAIF, involves a man who died while in the process of pursuing a workers’ compensation claim. His death was unrelated to his work injuries. The Oregon Supreme Court held that the man’s estate had the right to continue his claim.

As any workers compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights would note, the legal issues raised in this case are significant. To better understand these, it is necessary to place workers’ compensation and estate claims in the context of Illinois laws.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits to employees who are hurt while working. If an employee dies as a direct result of a workplace accident, the worker’s family may receive survivors’ benefits. Under the IWCA, these are two separate and distinct types of workers’ compensation claims.

The Illinois Probate Act

The Illinois Probate Act of 1975 addresses estates and inheritance. An estate is the accumulated assets of a person, which may be inherited by others after that person’s death. Estates may include legal rights and entitlements, as well as property and assets. Under some circumstances, an estate is allowed to become a substitute in a deceased person’s legal claims. Any benefits gained through such claims would become part of the estate’s assets.

Precedent in Illinois

A case presenting similar legal issues was decided by the Appellate Court of Illinois. The case, Divittorio v. The Industrial Commission, involved a male employee of a painting company. The employee was injured by a fall, which he sustained while working. He died before his workers’ compensation claim reached arbitration. The death was not related to the fall. The court ruled that the man’s young daughter could be substituted in her father’s workers’ compensation claim.

Part of this court’s decision rested on the fact that the man’s child was a minor. Previously, in Giles v. The Industrial Commission, the appellate court reached a different conclusion. In that case, the court determined that a worker’s estate could not be substituted as a party in his workers’ compensation claim. The court reasoned that his adult children were not dependents, and therefore were not entitled to his workers’ compensation benefits.

Any workers compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights would explain that case law and state statutes may change. Those who are concerned with such issues may find it beneficial to stay informed about new cases and legislation related to workers’ compensation.

Benefits are worth fighting for

Many workers and their families depend heavily on workers’ compensation benefits. Those who have had a relative die prior to resolving a benefit claim may want to contact a workers compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights. Doing so may provide much-needed guidance through very complex legal processes.