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How Attorneys Can Help You Overcome Complexities in Death Benefits Claims

Many factors contribute to the outcome of a workers' comp death benefits case ─ the particular judge hearing the case, workers' comp laws and rulings in similar cases that set precedents.

In South Coast Framing, Inc. v. W.C.A.B. (Clark, Brandon), the appellate court considered the Labor Code and precedents established in previous cases to determine its ruling:

  • To be compensable for workers' compensation, the worker must show that injury arose out of, during and was caused by employment (Labor Code, § 3600)
  • Employment does not have to be the sole cause but is sufficient if it is a contributing cause (Guerra v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Board)
  • In a death case, the test is met when industrial injury and employment constitute material factors in contributing to an employee's death (St. Clair, Ca. Workers' Compensation Law and Practice)
  • The worker has the burden of proving reasonable probability of industrial causation of the injury (McAllister v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Board)

Brandon Clark suffered head, back, neck and chest injuries when he fell from a roof while working for South Coast Framing, Inc in 2008. He died in 2009. His wife filed a claim alleging his death was caused by the interaction of medications he took as a result of his work injury. The workers' compensation judge (WCJ) ruled in favor of the wife's claim and the company appealed for reconsideration, arguing that the injury was not the proximate cause of his death and it was unclear that medications causing the death were medications taken for the injury.

The appellate court concluded that evidence presented was not adequate to establish industrial causation for his death and denied the claim. The case now awaits review by the State Supreme Court. Without the representation of a lawyer, Clark’s wife may not have been able to file for death benefits on behalf of her husband.

If you lose a loved one as a result of work related injury, seek experienced legal representation. Consult with experienced Orange County attorneys who focus their practice on workers’ compensation cases.

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