When a loved one dies unexpectedly or prematurely, they often leave behind family members who were financially dependent on them. If the death of that loved one was caused or substantially contributed to by their work, the dependents have the right to claim a lump sum death benefit under Workers Compensation legislation.
We recently acted for the children of a deceased worker. The deceased worked extremely long hours and was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, causing her significant stress. It was not disputed that she was a very dedicated worker.
On the day of her death, the deceased worker was travelling to a work meeting, when she suffered a fatal heart attack. The children brought a claim against her employer, alleging that their mother’s employment had been a substantial contributing factor to her death.
This was a complex matter. The deceased had a variety of risk factors for a heart attack, and some of these were unrelated to her work. However, she also had risk factors (such as not having time to exercise, and being under great stress on the day of her death) which were work related.
We sought several expert reports from a cardiologist in relation to these issues, and we got reports that were supportive of the childrens’ case. We also took statements from all of the children, as well as close friends and partners as to the deceased’s work situation. This matter was then heard in the Workers Compensation Commission. A decision was given after some months, and the children won. They were awarded the maximum death benefit.
The employer’s insurer then appealed that decision, and several months later, that appeal was heard by the Deputy President of the Workers Compensation Commission. We have recently been advised that the children won the appeal as well.
This has been a long and hard fought case, and was helped by the thorough preparation of both lay and expert evidence. It has been very rewarding to assist such deserving clients, and to see them secure a positive outcome on 2 separate occasions.
This article was written by Caryn Ger, a senior solicitor with the firm. For more information or to speak with Caryn, please contact us on 8355 4003.