A reader asked the following:

My husband was on workers compensation and after awhile died of heart attack.  The compensation for the claim settlement never came about even though he was deemed disable from work injury.  I was told that since he died the claim was closed and I was not entitled to any claim compensation.  Is that true?

I don’t claim to be the best attorney in the world, but it stuns me how many incompetent ones are out there.  This is not true.  If you have a work injury and die of unrelated causes, your estate can make a claim for a settlement.

My guess is that the lawyer who handled this case isn’t actually incompetent, but rather just not very experienced with Illinois workers’ compensation claims.

In some personal injury claims, if you die of unrelated causes after an accident, the case is pretty much done.  I’d bet a nickel that the lawyer here is more of an auto accident guy that a work comp guy. 

In Illinois, we attorneys are not by law allowed to call ourselves experts or specialists.  But just as you would look for a doctor that focuses on one area of medicine, you should be seeking a firm that focuses primarily on work injuries.  When you get someone that is more of a jack of all trades, that’s when trouble starts.

We can’t promise you a result, but we do guarantee that every lawyer in our state-wide network of attorneys has a primary focus on representing injured workers.  That, in my opinion, is the first step toward having a successful case result.  Of course they also provide great customer service which shouldn’t be that hard, but for whatever reason is for many firms.  By that I mean the lawyers I work with and recommend will return your phone calls, explain the law to you and fight to get the best result possible.

When you have an attorney like this, you don’t need to worry about simple questions, such as what happens to a case when a worker dies, being answered incorrectly.

On another note, in a case like this, I’d want to know if the job injury somehow contributed to the heart attack.  Perhaps the decedent gained a ton of wait after his injury and that contributed to his death.  Perhaps the medication he was on played a role.  Maybe it was nothing, but you always want to try and overturn every stone to see what might be there.  If in fact the job accident contributed to the heart attack, his widow could be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It all goes back to the point of getting an advocate for your case that knows what they are doing.