DEATH ACTIONS IN WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASES

Date: May 16, 2012
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            Mary’s husband Todd was killed as a result of his attempt to repair an airbrake line on a trailer that his truck was pulling. Todd’s employer, Wrong Way Trucking Company, took the position that Todd was an independent contractor since Todd had signed an agreement stating that he was in fact an independent contractor when he started to drive for the company.

             The evidence in the case showed that Todd, although being an owner/operator, was exclusively serving Wrong Way Trucking Company and he had no customers of his own. Wrong Way also determined Todd’s day-to-day schedule and was solely responsible for lining up customers for Todd.

             After hearing all the evidence the Judge found that in fact, despite the contract that Todd had signed stating he was an independent contractor, that Wrong Way exercised sole control over Todd’s actions and had the right to discharge Todd at any time. In essence, Wrong Way did have the power to control Todd in every aspect of his work. Wrong Way maintained though that since they paid Todd in cash it was further evidence that there was no employer/employee relationship. Nevertheless while manner of payment is an item to be considered in making a determination of an employment relationship, it is only one factor and usually not considered a determinative factor.

             Todd’s widow will be awarded death benefits or 51% of Todd’s average weekly wage for the rest of her life as long she does not remarry. If she does remarry, she will be entitled to the equivalent of 104 weeks of what would have been his compensation rate.

 Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive.  Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column. 

 

 

 

 

 

Cal Leventhal
Cal is a graduate of the University of Miami (magna Cum Laude) and attended Loyola and Notre Dame law schools graduating in 1976. He is admitted to the Bars of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and both state and federal trial and appellate courts situated in Pennsylvania.