If you are working and get killed in an accident, your family would have a claim for death benefits.  But what happens if you have a work related injury and then months later you die of unrelated causes?


I thought of this recently when I got a call from someone whose husband had died of cancer months after a work related accident.  Somehow their attorney allowed the case to be dismissed and didn’t file for a reinstatement on time.  And when they did file to get the case re-filed, they made a huge error.


After a death, the application for adjustment of claim –this is the initial paperwork used to start any case – must be amended to show that the case is now the estate of the injured worker.  If you don’t do that then you don’t have a case to pursue.  And if the case has already been dismissed and you don’t do that, boy did you mess up.  In fact, I suspect my caller will have a legal malpractice lawsuit on their hands (wasn’t our mistake, but some firm I’ve never heard of).


Once the application is properly amended, you need to show some sort of dependency which would be a spouse, child under 18, child in college, etc.  After that happens, you can pursue getting all of the medical bills and time off work from the accident paid. 


On top of that you can likely get a settlement depending on the actual injury the deceased person had and where they were in their treatment.


But there is a process you have to go through.  It’s not a complicated one, yet before an insurance company is going to pay you or anyone else any money they want to make sure they are paying the right people who are entitled to that compensation.  They certainly don’t give away money on a whim or by mistake. 


Much like most Illinois work comp claims, it’s not very complex if you know what you are doing.  That’s of course why people get attorneys in these situations, because they don’t want anything to be screwed up.  Someone who is experienced should be able to make the case go smoothly.


Losing a case is of course no where near as bad as losing a loved one.  But that doesn’t mean you should not take a case seriously.  Handle the process the right way and it will be one less thing to worry about.


By Michael Helfand