Mother Unable to Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Son’s Workplace Death
As a parent, it can be upsetting to learn that your child was killed in a workplace accident. It can be even more devastating to learn that the employer is failing to take responsibility for the death and even the workers’ compensation system is denying you any compensation for damages.
Sadly, this is the case for a New York woman. Her son was just 14 years old when he was killed in a tractor accident at Park Family Farm in Homer. Nobody saw the accident, but an employee and the boy’s father found the boy crushed under a large hay bale. The boy was operating a skid steer without permission.
The incident happened in July 2015 and the boy was illegally employed at the farm. The boy’s mother filed for workers’ compensation death benefits in March 2016. At the time, the farm accepted the accidental injury claim. The state workers’ compensation board also directed the farm to pay increased death benefits because of the illegal employment. At a hearing in June 2016, a judge awarded the boy’s mother and father $25,000 each in death benefits. In April 2017, the workers’ compensation board decided to increase the award to $50,000 for each parent based on the fact that the boy was not legally employed at the time of the incident.
The boy’s mother also filed a complaint against the farm’s owner. The complaint states eight causes of action, including gross negligence, malicious and reckless behavior, wrongful death and civil liability for criminal conduct. The owner, however, claimed that the lawsuit was barred by the Workers Compensation Act.
The workers’ compensation board agreed and dismissed the lawsuit because the boy’s mother failed to show that the employer’s conduct was egregious. The appellate court also agreed. It was already determined that the boy’s injuries were accidental and in the course of employment. The boy’s mother could not prove that the employer engaged in any deliberate acts to have the boy injured. There was no evidence of willful intent to harm, even though the employer could have been considered negligent. Since the employer did not commit an intentional tort and the employer had workers’ compensation insurance at the time of the accident, the boy’s parents cannot file a lawsuit outside of the workers’ compensation system. Therefore, the $50,000 each parent received was their exclusive remedy.
However, in September 2018, the owner of the farm pled guilty to three misdemeanor charges due to the boy’s death: prohibited employment of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and allowing a minor to operate a large driven hoisting apparatus.
Contact Us for More Information About Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation can be tricky. It can be challenging to navigate the system on your own and get the benefits you deserve, so don’t be afraid to seek legal help.
If you or a loved one has suffered a workplace accident, get help from White Plains workers’ compensation lawyer Michael Lawrence Varon. He can help you understand your legal rights. To schedule a free consultation, call (914) 228-1770 or fill out the online form.