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Can Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits Be Granted to a Deceased Worker’s Estate?

handwriting text Death Benefit

Surviving family members may have a right to pursue workers’ compensation death benefits after a fatal accident. 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 injured in a workplace accident. If an employee dies as a direct result of a workplace accident while performing his or her job duties, the worker’s family may receive workers’ compensation death 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 workers’ compensation benefits.

A workers’ compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights understands that case law and state statutes may change regarding Illinois workers’ compensation death benefits. Those who are concerned with such issues may find it beneficial to stay informed about new cases and legislation related to workers’ compensation.

What Happens to Your Workers’ Comp Case if You Die?

If an employee passes away due to a workplace injury or accident, surviving dependents can seek compensation on his or her behalf. In Illinois, an employer must pay the greater amount of 25 years worth of lost wages or $500,000. In addition to seeking workers’ compensation death benefits, family members may be able to file third party claims, such as pursuing punitive damages or filing a wrongful death claim if the accident was caused by an additional party.

Pursuing Illinois Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

Many workers and their families depend on workers’ compensation benefits. Illinois residents who have had a relative die prior to resolving a benefit claim should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer in Arlington Heights. Doing so may provide much-needed guidance through very complex legal processes. An attorney can help victims of loss determine who is liable for the accident, proceed with the right claims, and secure evidence.

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