When a worker dies in a work-related accident, workers’ compensation death benefits are payable to the surviving dependents of the deceased worker. In Colorado and other states this generally includes a surviving spouse, minor children, and parents. The survivors will receive workers’ compensation payments based on a prescribed percentage of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage prior to the workplace injury and death.
In general, the benefits for minor children cease when the child reaches the age of 18, however there are additional benefits payable if the child remains enrolled in an institute of higher education. There may be reasons to consider a lump-sum settlement after a worker’s death, but each case differs and must be evaluated carefully with counsel. A lump-sum settlement in some cases may be giving up valuable benefits over the long-run that are far more valuable than a quick settlement.
In any event, the insurer will not negotiate a settlement of workers’ compensation death benefits unless it also receives a significant benefit. It’s best for workers’ compensation counsel to advise beneficiaries on such issues and to also handle the potentially complex negotiations. Unfortunately, these fatalities occur daily, with a greater number of them in certain hazardous industries.
In one recent case in Georgia, a 31-year-old man died in a gruesome accident at a Pratt Industries plant while working on a conveyor belt. He was apparently clearing out the entrance of an obstruction of wood chips when his left hand got caught and he was pulled into the conveyor mechanism. It took his hand and then his left arm, crushing and killing him soon thereafter.
Promoting safety and reducing workplace injury and death are a central goal of the workers’ compensation matrix in Colorado and other states. Although OSHA had found no violations at the plant in May 2013, Pratt Industries has had several citations for “guarding hazards” at other plants. Such machinery is supposed to have a guard mechanism that would prevent this kind of unbelievably horrific event. One question for OSHA to look at will be whether the Pratt employees took the safety guard off the machine or whether it was manufactured at an earlier time without a guard.
Source: Rockdale News, Man dies in industrial accident at Pratt Conyers plant, No author, Dec. 5, 2013