Obtaining Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits in Illinois After Your Loved Is Killed in a Construction Accident

Whether you’re in Chicago, New York or any other major city, construction work is one of the most dangerous jobs out there. Too many times, the damaging or even fatal accidents that happen to construction workers are the result of inadequate safety protections and protocols at the job site. Some accident types occur over and over, leading OSHA to declare them to be the “Fatal Four.” These four accident types – falls, being struck by objects, electrocutions and being caught in/caught between – accounted for roughly 60% of fatal construction accidents in 2017.

When that happens, you, as the loved one of a deceased worker, may be entitled to recover death benefits under the workers’ compensation system. Meeting all the requirements of the workers’ compensation process isn’t easy, so be sure to retain an experienced Chicago workers’ compensation attorney without delay.

R.L.’s case was a tragic Chicago-area example of the “Fatal Four.” R.L. died after a driver of a front loader backed up his vehicle into R.L. and pinned the worker between the front loader and a dump truck.

When a worker is killed on the job, his family is entitled to pursue benefits through the workers’ compensation system. When you do that, though, you can expect that the employer will throw up as many hurdles as possible in your way. For one thing, the company that paid R.L. made the argument that he was not one of its employees.

The workers’ compensation arbitrator did not agree, concluding that an employment relationship did exist. One of the keys to the family’s success on this issue was the testimony they were able to get from the president of the company that R.L. worked for. The president, among his other testimony, acknowledged that he told R.L. what to do and that he controlled the way that R.L. went about doing his job.

Control is one of the keys in separating employees from independent contractors

This was very important because of how the law treats employees versus independent contractors. If you are an employee, you may be entitled to benefits; if you’re an independent contractor, you’re generally not entitled to benefits in Illinois. One of the vital things arbitrators and courts look at to decide whether you’re an employee or an independent contractor is control. If you control the way that you go about completing your tasks, that points toward your being an independent contractor. If someone else tells you what to do and controls the way you do your job, the law is more likely to consider you as an employee. In this case, the latter was true, so R.L. was an employee.

Another hurdle the family faced was the employer’s argument that R.L.’s son did not qualify as a dependent under Illinois’s workers’ compensation law. When R.L. died, he left behind a son and an ex-wife. The ex-wife had divorced R.L. and married another man three years before R.L.’s fatal accident. The son lived with his mother and stepfather, although R.L. supported the son financially. The stepfather adopted the child after R.L. died.

Again, the family overcame the employer’s arguments. Even though the stepfather adopted the child after R.L. died, that adoption did not change the fact that the child was R.L.’s son and was under age 18 when R.L died, which is a valid basis for claiming benefits under Illinois’s workers’ compensation law, regardless of the later adoption.

Fortunately, this family was able to traverse the system successfully, providing the arguments and evidence needed for a successful outcome. When you’re hurt, or a loved one is tragically killed, in a Chicago workplace accident, you need to know where to turn. Reach out to the knowledgeable Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca for the legal advice and advocacy you need. Our attorneys are here to help as you navigate the often-complex course that is the workers’ compensation system. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.