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Fatal Workplace Accident Triggers Award of Workers’ Compensation Benefits and a $900K Civil Settlement

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Unfortunately, fatal workplace accidents not only cause massive emotional harm to the loved ones left behind, they can sometimes also set off an entire series of legal consequences. Your time and energy is best spent on your family. Leave the legal concerns to the experienced professionals by retaining a skilled Pennsylvania wrongful death attorney.

An example of the multi-faceted set of legal consequences arising from a catastrophic workplace accident is the case of R.B., a 55-year-old mechanic from just east of Pittsburgh. One day, R.B. was performing maintenance on a paving roller when the machine lurched, pinning him underneath. The mechanic was crushed and died at the scene.

One thing that a fatal workplace accident may trigger is the need to file a workers’ compensation claim. R.B.’s widow received more than $100,000 in workers’ compensation death benefits after the roller accident. Another thing that may be triggered by an accident like this is a civil lawsuit. Sometimes, the law may allow the pursuit of both workers’ compensation benefits and civil damages. In this case, the widow sued the roller’s manufacturer and another firm. The case settled with the manufacturer agreeing to pay $475,000 and the second defendant paying $425,000.

Even after having sued and negotiated a sufficient settlement, the legal work may not be done. R.B.’s wife had to go back to court to get the judge’s permission to allocate the $900,000 in settlement proceeds to make payments to herself and the children she and R.B. shared. The court granted the wife’s request. In the order, the court gave $420,000 to the children for wrongful death damages, which was a sum that was not subject to any workers’ compensation lien, $360,000 to the widow for loss of services, comfort and affection, which was not subject to the workers’ compensation lien and $120,000 to the widow for loss of financial support. Only that $120,000 sum was subject to a workers’ compensation lien.

So, what exactly is a workers’ compensation lien? As pointed out above, sometimes an injured worker gets hurt on the job and his injury is something that allows the pursuit of both a workers’ compensation claim and a civil lawsuit. If the worker receives workers’ compensation benefits and wins his civil case, the workers’ compensation insurer may be entitled to request and receive reimbursement paid from the civil judgment or settlement. So, you can see how persuading a court to apportion a civil judgment or settlement in a way that only a small fraction is subject to the workers’ compensation lien is advantageous in terms of ensuring that your family gets the fullest possible benefit of the civil settlement.

This widow’s legal team was able to do that, with the judge subjecting only $120,000 out of a total $900,000 to the workers’ compensation lien. The Superior Court upheld that ruling, stating that the widow provided enough evidence to support the trial judge’s factual findings and that the trial court’s legal conclusions were correct.

What all these litigation steps and procedural specifications point out is that getting the most from your case may require many steps and a detailed knowledge of the law and procedure. For your wrongful death and workers’ compensation case needs, rely upon the Pennsylvania injury attorneys at Needle Law Firm. Our attorneys have been providing effective representation to our clients for many years, and are ready to discuss your matter with you.

Contact us today at for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 855.687.4357.

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