One of the saddest situations in Illinois workers’ compensation law is when a client dies. When you get to know someone well, you are losing a friend, not just a client. It’s of course 1,000 times harder for a surviving spouse. The purpose of this post is to let you know your rights as a surviving spouse when an Illinois work comp claim is on file.
I’m referring to situations where a person is injured on the job and later dies of causes unrelated to the work accident. Note that if your spouse dies of a work-related injury or in part because of that (something like a heart attack brought on by significant weight gain following an accident), that would be a different type of case and one we should definitely talk about.
With Covid especially, we’ve seen a lot of instances in the last few years where someone has a work-related accident and then dies of something like Covid, cancer, heart disease, etc. Their surviving spouse wants to know if they will be able to get the settlement that their loved one would have been entitled to.
The number one thing we look for in these situations is were they at maximum medical improvement or MMI. This is a medical term that basically means you are as good as you are going to get and have essentially been discharged from the care of a doctor. That doesn’t mean you could never have more medical care, but that your recovery has stabilized and you are not going to have regular appointments anymore.
If that happens prior to the death, then you are entitled to the permanent partial disability settlement that your partner would have received. Now it’s arguable that you shouldn’t get the full amount they might have received as factors such as continued pain won’t be a real issue, but according to Illinois case law, that shouldn’t really be considered.
In a recent case, a surviving spouse was awarded a 40% loss of the man for the injury of a police officer on the job who later died of cancer. That ended up being a payment in the six figures.
What is incredibly unfair about these cases is that if your spouse wasn’t at MMI, you might not be able to recover anything other than lost time and medical bill payments. But every case is different and worthy of a review. If you’d like a free consultation with an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer, call us any time at 312-346-5578.