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What Happens When You Die On The Job With No Dependents?


In Florida, if you die on the job, your family can file a workers’ compensation claim to recover death benefits from your employer. What happens if you have no immediate family like a spouse or children? The rules will vary from state to state. In Florida, parents would be entitled to recover 25% of the weekly amount of the employee’s wages, while grandchildren would be entitled to recover 15%. In Missouri, however, no dependents means no lost wages recovery. They only send you a $5,000 check for your burial.

Case study 

A recent case in Missouri involves a claim filed by grieving parents against an employer who they claimed “worked their son to death” in 96-degree heat. Other allegations include that the supervisors turned off air conditioning in the trucks increasing the risk of heatstroke and other problems. Since Missouri’s rule prevents recovery by his parents, they were only issued a check for his funeral arrangements as the executor of his estate. The parents tried to sue the company directly by naming one of the supervisors who allegedly did not allow workers to have air conditioning.

The case was heard by the court, but they dismissed it on the grounds that the supervisor did not intentionally cause injury to the plaintiff. Instead, he negligently caused injury to the plaintiff. While co-employee defendant lawsuits are permitted in Missouri, they require proof of intentional malice or violence or evidence that the employee increased the risk of injury to other employees.

The court ruled that there was “no evidence” that the supervisor acted with intentional malice or purpose to increase the risk of injury. Since any supervisor who did that would clearly be some sort of sociopath who has neither the interests of his workers or his company in his heart, such lawsuits are basically barred under Missouri law.

OSHA fined the company over the incident and ruled that the worker died unnecessarily. When he was brought to the hospital, his body temperature was over 108 degrees. The employer paid $23,000 for funeral and medical expenses resulting from the incident.

Strange bedfellows 

One last element of this case that is interesting is that the plaintiff’s attorney attempted to claim that the injury was not covered by workers’ compensation. In other words, he stole an argument from the insurer’s playbook claiming that his client’s obesity (and not the heat or work conditions) resulted in his death. Since the “idiopathic” condition was not acquired at work, the employer is not responsible for covering the workers’ compensation claim. They are only responsible for increasing the workers’ risk of death by forcing them to work in extremely hot conditions without water or air conditioning.

While creative, the argument failed, as creative arguments often do. The workers’ compensation commission declared the plaintiff eligible to receive benefits.

Talk to a Miami Work Injury Attorney 

Whether you need to file a lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim, the Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer Law can help litigate your claim and ensure you are paid what you are owed in accordance with the law. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.


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