Families of Workers Who Died from COVID-19 Are Being Denied Death Benefits

Families of Workers Who Died from COVID-19 Are Being Denied Death BenefitsWorkers in Delaware and across the country are placing their lives at risk every day to provide food, essential products, and essential services to the public. If they die as a result of injuries or illnesses they develop at work, they can collect death benefits through workers’ compensation. Contact Silverman, McDonald & Friedman in Wilmington, Newark, or Seaford to learn more.

Workers who are injured due to a workplace accident or an occupational illness during the scope of their employment are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In Delaware, if a worker dies due to a workplace accident or occupational illness, § 2330 Compensation for death provides that:

  • The amount of compensation is payable is between 66% and 80% of the workers’ average weekly wages, depending on whether the worker hand a spouse and the number of children. If the worker didn’t have a spouse, then “dependent” surviving parents or siblings may be entitled to upwards of 25% of the lost wages.
  • The lost wages may be paid for up to 400 weeks. Payments beyond 400 weeks may also be due beyond 400 weeks for those who qualify.
  • Payment for funeral and burial expenses up to $3,500. Amounts more than $3,500 may also be approved.

Many workers across the country have died due to the deadly coronavirus disease. Sadly, many of the families of workers who die due to the disease are being denied the funeral benefits and wage loss benefits they deserve.

Why COVID-19 deaths may not qualify for Delaware workers’ compensation benefits

A recent New York Times article highlights the scope of the tragedy: a worker at a JBS meat-processing plants in Greely, Colorado died after contracting COVID-19. Even though he had worked at the company for 30 years and even though it was clear that he died due to the disease, his wife’s claim for workers’ compensation death benefits was denied.

The claimant is one of six employees at the plant who died due to Covid-19. Two hundred workers at other meat-processing plants have also died (according the Food & Environment Report Network), even though they risked their lives every day to help feed the nations. Workers in meat-processing plants often work in close proximity to one another – which helps spread the deadly disease. About 44,000 meatpacking workers have contracted COVID-19.

The defense raised by JBS and other employers is that they have no way of determining that their workers contracted the disease through work. The employers argue the worker could have just as easily contracted the disease outside of work.

Lawyers for the victims argue that companies like JBS are placing profits before safety. They’re asking employees to risk their lives and turning their back on the employees (and their families) when the worker becomes ill or dies – due to the disease.

Some states have passed laws or executive orders to ensure workers’ compensation is paid for employees who contract the disease. Delaware has not, which is why you need an attorney to help you if your claim is coronavirus related.

At Silverman, McDonald & Friedman, our Delaware workers’ compensation lawyers are aggressively pursuing workers’ compensation claims for any employee who becomes ill during the course of his or her job duties. We are fighting for families whose loves ones died as a result of a work-contracted illness or injury. We are also advocating for workers across the state to receive full workers’ compensation benefits during the pandemic. For help with any workplace accident or illness, please phone us at 302.888.2900 or complete our contact form to discuss your work injury claim. We have offices in Wilmington, Newark, and Seaford.