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Workers' compensation death benefits can assist grieving families

The cause and circumstances of deaths in some workplace accidents in California and elsewhere are not immediately evident, and can only be determined after a thorough investigation. However, an investigation can take months, and the surviving dependents of the deceased worker often have to settle end-of-life costs soon after the death. Financial assistance with obligations such as rent or mortgage and daily living expenses are also ongoing regardless of when the accident investigation is completed. Fortunately, covered dependents will typically be eligible for death benefits from the workers' compensation insurance fund.

A 56-year-old husband, father and grandfather in another state recently died in a workplace accident that is still unexplained, leaving the family with many questions. Accident reports indicate that the worker, who worked for a wastewater treatment company for 23 years, was found shortly after 5 p.m. in an oxidation ditch in water that was 16 feet deep. It is suspected that he drowned.

Investigators say the man was with co-workers during their lunch break, but it is not clear when and why he went to the particular ditch. It is also unclear how he entered the ditch. The OSHA investigation will attempt to answer those questions and also determine whether any safety violations led to the death of this worker.

While the grieving family is waiting for answers, they have to cope with end-of-life expenses and other challenges due to the sudden loss of income. When a loved one's life is lost in a workplace accident, the California workers' compensation insurance fund normally provides death benefits to immediate family members. The benefits typically cover the costs related to a funeral and burial, along with a financial package based on the deceased worker's income. This is designed to provide some level of financial relief to cover daily living costs and other financial obligations for covered dependents of the deceased worker.

Source:, "Accident at Wastewater Treatment Plant Takes Life of Jerry Connolly", Aug. 12, 2015

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