Legal Lens: Further understanding workers’ compensation

Legal Lens

The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS – In last week’s Legal Lens segment, Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen, explained workers’ compensation in the midst of the tornado that hit the Amazon facility. This time out, McNairy discusses what to do if someone is killed on the job.

“Under workers’ compensation, there is something called death benefits. In Missouri, survivors of workers or children or entitled to about 66% of the worker’s average weekly wage in the year prior to their death and funeral expenses up to $5,000,” she said. “In Illinois, it’s about the same: about 66% of the worker’s wage of the prior year’s salary and funeral expenses up to $8,000.”

Now, what if someone dies on the job but it’s unrelated to their job?

“These are the situations that are very complicated and we talk about workers’ comp being an exclusive remedy,” McNairy said. “There are exceptions to it. One of them is third-party negligence.

“For example, a nurse caretaker is driving a patient to an appoitnment and they’re rear-ended by a semi-truck. Not only would they have a workers’ compensation claim, they would have a claim against the semi-truck company. Another example would be conduct of a supervisor or another employee can be so extreme or egregious that it takes it out of that exclusive remedy of workers’ comp and opens it up to other claims.”

What about “acts of God”?

“Insurance companies often have a clause called an ‘act of God.’ It’s just one they deem with your job to be a normal event, normal dangerousness, they can deny your claim saying it’s an act of God. But there is usually huge backlash for that. For example, during the Joplin tornado, an insurance company denied a workers’ compensation claim saying it was because of the tornado, but the public outcry was so large that they turned their decision and paid the client.”

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