An 83-year-old Home Depot Worker died six weeks after sustaining a work injury. He had been shoved to the ground by a serial shoplifter while apparently trying to stop a theft. The Home Depot Worker sustained injuries as a result of the shove and he lived for 5 weeks before passing. The medical examiner has ruled the death to be a homicide. Dailymail.com
This article will discuss how the Injured Worker’s death was work-related for the purposes of obtaining death benefits.
Does A Time Delay Between The Work Injury and The Death Matter for the Purposes of Pursuing a Death Claim?
Yes and No. California Workers’ Compensation Law provides for 240 weeks from the date of the injury to the date of death for the period of the delay. Deaths happening beyond this period are likely barred by the statute of limitations. Thus, a five week delay in the passing would be within the statute of limitation. The claim would be timely and dependency death benefits are warranted.
Does the Medical Examiner’s Opinion of Homicide Determine Industrial Causation?
No. The Medical Examiner’s opinion that the death was a homicide is a medical determination within the area of criminal law. In California, workers’ compensation and criminal law have different burdens of proof. California Workers’ Compensation Law has a reasonable medical probability standard. Likewise, the work injury’s relation to the death has a specific standard as well. The South Coast Framing case standard that applies: It is well established that for the purpose of meeting the causation requirement in a workers’ compensation injury claim, it is sufficient if the work is a contributing cause of the injury. (South Coast Framing, Inc. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (2015) 61 Cal. 4th 291, [188 Cal. Rptr. 3d 46, 349 P.3d 141, 80 Cal. Comp. Cases 489].) “
Thus,Workers’ Compensation medical examiners will have to express an opinion whether, within reasonable medical probability, that the work injury was a contributing factor in the Injured Worker’s death. Arguably, the Medical Examiner’s opinion, which most likely is criminal law based, expresses that it a higher standard than workers’ compensation law requires.
While one could argue that the Medical Examiner’s opinion should be binding, there argument is arguing apples and oranges. Even with such an opinion, it is likely that a carrier would also seek an opinion within the workers’ compensation system. This could be a QME, a Treating Doctor or an Agreed Medical Examiner on the issue.
What if I Need Advice?
If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.