Some days you leave the office feeling positive about the work you have done; yesterday was one of those days.
Death claims are hard, it is difficult to explain to the surviving dependents that their loved one's life has a specific monetary value. While these claims are challenging, they are also rewarding.
Our office had the pleasure of representing a wife and her three grown children in a workers' compensation death claim. The husband/father worked for a very large water company as a route delivery driver and after numerous consecutive days of heavy work in extreme heat without a working air conditioner, the husband/father passed. Our office, in addition to the workers' compensation death claim, also filed a Serious and Willful Petition. As a result of this death, CalOSHA issued citations for various violations against the employer.
This is one of those cases where having an honest opposing counsel made all the difference. Without the defense attorney's assistance and willingness to work together, this case would not have settled and would be litigated for many more months if not years. I am grateful that this attorney was assigned to this case and hold him in high esteem.
The decedent had worked for the employer for nearly 15 years performing heavy labor, and despite the threshold requirements for a workers' compensation death claim to be fairly low (employment must be one of the contributing causes), the carrier denied the claim.
The matter proceeded to a PQME in cardiology who found the death not work-related. This was a hard blow to both me and the family; how could this doctor find the death not work related when all facts pointed to a causal connection between the work and the passing? The PQME's report had many problems with it and showed the QME's lack of understanding of basic workers' compensation principals. Our office proceeded to schedule the deposition of the PQME but in the interim, still discussed settlement with defense counsel.
Defense counsel agreed that the PQME's report would not hold up in court and tentatively agreed that the death was work-related for purposes of settlement discussions. That was the key to being able to have true and fruitful settlement discussions. In the end, the family received the full death benefit with an increase for the S&W petition filed. None of this would have been possible without a good defense attorney who was willing to acknowledge the faults in their case.
While nothing that we do can fill the void made by the husband/father's absence, we are hopeful that this settlement will help the family begin the next chapter of their lives. We are honored to have been able to serve this family in their time of need and hope that the most difficult times are behind them.