Fighting for Death Benefits After a Spouse Dies on the Job
A widow who was denied workers compensation death benefits after her late husband died following his on the job injury is trying to change Virginia law - for the better, in my view.
Claire Pierce's husband, Arthur, a trucker, was found beside his truck at work, unconscious and bleeding. An accident reconstruction determined he fell 12 feet onto concrete from the rig in his employer's lot, while he was on the clock. He had sustained brain damage. Unfortunately, he never regained consciousness and died 16 months later.
Sounds like his widow would get workers compensation benefits, right? In D.C. and Maryland, the widow would receive workers compensation death benefits, which replace a portion of the deceased employee's earnings, and pay for medical and funeral expenses. But not in Virginia.
Unfortunately, Virginia is one of a handful of states that have a presumption that death is covered if the employee is found dead on the job site (for example if he dies instantaneously from a fall or accident). But since the injured worker wasn't able to testify and his fall was unwitnessed, the commission ruled there wasn't enough evidence to award benefits.
Mrs. Pierce is trying to get legislation passed that would change this law - a bill did not make it out of committee apparently. I'm contacting my state reps telling them to support a change that is good for Virginia workers and their families.
What is the insurance industry's response? In typical fashion, they don't see a need to change the law because it would lead to "fraud" - as if an injured worker could fake brain damage and a coma for 16 months?