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Woman seeks workers' compensation benefits after death of fiancé

Being injured on-the-job can cause a lot of physical and financial problems for the injured worker. In many instances, an injured worker may be entitled to workers' compensation in order to help cover costs of medical expenses and lost wages during the recovery period.

When a worker is killed in a work accident, dependents may also be entitled to benefits. But workers' compensation laws are not always clear on who is considered a dependent. One woman, a mother of three, is struggling after the death of her fiancé to make ends meet financially and has been fighting to obtain workers' compensation benefits.

The woman and her fiancé had been together for almost four years and were planning to wed two months after the fatal shooting. Her fiancé left to go to work at a beverage distribution company. The fiancé had been in the breakage room in the warehouse when an employee of the company went on a shooting rampage.

The woman's fiancé was killed in the shooting. After the incident, the woman filed a workers' compensation claim against the distribution company and the insurance company. Both covered the funeral expenses at the time. However the owners of the distribution company later contested the woman's claim.

The distribution company is claiming that the woman is not entitled to any type of workers' compensation benefits because she isn't a family member of the victim. The argument is that claimants must be a dependent of the victim, defined as "a member of the injured employee's family who was wholly or partly dependent upon the earnings of the employee at the time of the injury."

But does a dependent have to be a blood relative? The woman thinks that the law is unclear on this matter and that a dependent does not necessarily have to be related by blood. She and her three children had been dependent on her fiancé while they were together. Is it fair to deny her workers' compensation benefits simply because the two were not legally married?

Source: Hartford Courant online, "Hartford Distributors Victim's Girlfriend Fights For Workers' Comp Benefits," Dave Altimari, 20 March 2011

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