Widow of Deceased Firefighter Eligible for Death Benefits Despite Husband’s Prior Workers’ Compensation Settlement

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Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers discuss claiming death benefits despite prior Workers' Comp settlements. A volunteer firefighter for the Huntington Volunteer Fire Department recently died at age 72 from a heart attack brought on by heart disease and high blood pressure. The worker filed an occupational illness claim against the fire department and its two insurers. In 2015, he received a settlement for lump sums of $100,000 and $50,000, as well as Medicare set-aside of $47,192 for future prescriptions. After his death in 2017, his widow filed a Workers’ Compensation claim for death benefits, but the initial claim was denied. She appealed the claim, and the state appeals judge reversed the decision, granting her death benefits.

When the widow initially filed the claim for death benefits, the Commission denied the claim, saying that she had no claim to the execution of release by her husband. She appealed the decision and petitioned the Circuit Court for Calvert County to review the decision. However, the court ruled in favor of the fire department and the insurers. After a second appeal, a state appeals judge reversed the decision and sent the case back to the Commission on the grounds that the release signed by the worker at his settlement did not make any mention of death resulting from the deceased’s injury. Nor was there mention of any future claim for death benefits.

According to the appeals judge, even though the worker released future claims related to his occupational disease, a claim for death benefits comes from the worker’s death caused by the injury and not from the injury itself. The judge went on the say that, considering the deceased’s age and medical condition, the likelihood that he would die from heart disease and hypertension that was caused by his job as a firefighter would have been obvious to the parties involved in his Workers’ Compensation case. The court ruled that the widow’s death benefit claim should not be barred by her husband’s broad release prior to his death.

Death Benefits Available to Surviving Family Members

In Maryland, the amount of total death benefits is based on the worker’s average weekly wage. If the deceased worker was the main source of income for the family, surviving dependents will receive two-thirds of the worker’s weekly wage, not to exceed the annual maximum amount. The maximum weekly amount for 2018 was $1,094. If the deceased worker’s spouse also contributed a certain amount financially, the total death benefit would be multiplied by the percentage that the deceased worker contributed. For example, if the deceased worker’s salary contributed 60 percent of the family’s income, and the spouse contributed 40 percent, the dependents would receive 60 percent of two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage. Workers’ Compensation also covers up to $7,000 in funeral expenses.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Maximum Death Benefits for Families of Deceased Workers

If you lost a loved one in a tragic workplace accident, you are urged to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team will work closely with you to discuss the details of your case and ensure that you receive the maximum death benefits that you and your family deserve. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.