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Workers' compensation due after cougar attacks and kills worker

It's a tragic loss when a worker who was an animal lover is killed in a workplace accident by one of the animals that she loved. The setting was not in Colorado but in an animal rescue compound in another state where wild cats were housed. She was cleaning an enclosed space used by two cougars when one of the animals got out of its cage and attacked and killed her, according to police. The deceased woman has a surviving husband and a baby only five months old. Fortunately, her family is entitled to collect workers' compensation death benefits for a workplace accident resulting in death.

Death benefits include payment to the family of a specified percentage of lost wages, usually in bi-weekly installments. The amount of the payments is based on a statutorily-prescribed percentage of the employee's average weekly wage. Funeral and burial expenses are compensated and all medical bills are paid.

It's sometimes possible for payments to be terminated and a lump-sum paid to the family. In return, the company gets a full and final release of all claims. This is usually best done through the assistance of a workers' compensation attorney, who is experienced in dealing with the negotiating tactics of insurance adjusters. The attorney can generally obtain a maximum recovery while protecting the client's rights.

The results of the police investigation suggest that there should have been another worker with the decedent in the holding area. Furthermore, the cage may not have been properly locked. However, these potential safety violations don't interfere with the family's right to collect death benefits. The same rule applies here as in any other workers' compensation claim: benefits are paid regardless of fault.

Colorado and other states would generally follow the above workers' compensation principles. Interestingly, this tragedy evokes memories of other similar fatalities. A worker in a sanctuary was killed also while cleaning out a cat's holding area not long ago. Additionally, the recent killing of a top trainer at Sea World by an Orca whale remains familiar. All of these incidents, along with hundreds of other over the years, seem to dramatically repeat the same message: these animals were meant to be in the wild and not in a steel cage.

Source: CBS Atlanta, Mom: Ore. worker killed by cougar voiced concerns, Gosia Wozniacka, Nov. 11, 2013

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