Firefighter widow entitled to worker’s comp death benefits

One of the foundations of workers’ compensation is that it is “no-fault” insurance. It is available because of the broad understanding that in the course of everyday life workers are going to get hurt on the job. Workers’ compensation is supposed to be the system that provides financial recovery benefits in the fastest way possible. It doesn’t always work swiftly.

Workers’ Compensation lawyers in Jackson Heights know that the process of applying for benefits is cumbersome. The wait to learn if any benefits will be forthcoming can take years. Many times they are denied for the flimsiest of reasons, and the appeal to reverse a bad decision can take more years.

In Pennsylvania, one woman’s case had to be taken all the way to the state’s Supreme Court. Happily for her, the court ruled unanimously in her favor. What that means is that she will be able to finally receive death benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

The claim came from a woman whose husband had been a Philadelphia firefighter from 1974 to 2003. He died in 2004 after contracting hepatitis on the job. The widow attempted to claim her death benefits, but the city fought her request.

A doctor, who had never treated the firefighter, speculated on behalf of the city that the man might have contracted hepatitis while in the military in 1969. He cited one reference in the man’s military record. And on that basis, in 2007, a workers’ compensation judge denied the widow death benefits. She appealed.

In 2008, the state’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board reversed the original finding, saying the doctor’s opinion wasn’t based on his own expertise. Yesterday, some seven years after the death, the state’s Supreme Court upheld the award of benefits to the widow, saying that the evidence upon which the doctor based his opinion was too limited, uncorroborated and speculative, making it unreliable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *