What are the Time Limits for a Workers’ Compensation Death Claim?
You had no idea it would be your last goodbye. As your husband was headed to a service call, his truck slid on ice and right into a tree. Later, the police told you that he was likely killed on impact. You are beside yourself. How will you possibly make it alone with three babies all under the age of five? You wonder if you can make a workers’ compensation death claim. You also are concerned there may be time limits.
The latest on fatal work accidents are from 2016. According to the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, nearly 5,200 workers lost their lives because of on the job accidents. Sadly, that number was up seven percent from the previous year. A considerable percentage of the work-related deaths involved transportation accidents. Violence by other individuals and animals followed next.
Were you dependent on a loved one whose life ended as the result of a fatal work accident? If so, you may feel particularly lost. Among other things, you counted on their wages to make ends meet. So, what happens now?
Under New Jersey law, you may be entitled to make a dependency claim for benefits. In a prior article, we provided a breakdown of family members considered dependents. Payment of the deceased’s medical bills and funeral expenses are part of the claim. Meanwhile, a weekly benefit amount may also go to particular survivors. However, time is literally of the essence when filing a dependency claim petition.
Time Limits: Dependency Claims
Although many dependents seek legal counsel soon after their loved one’s death, some are unaware of their legal rights. The statute of limitations for filing a claim for dependency benefits is two years from the date of death.
Recently, a New Jersey woman attempted to challenge the time deadlines. The New Jersey Superior Court’s Appellate Division decided Jeannette v. General Mills Progresso just last month. Since the case is unpublished, it is not precedential law. It applies to the named parties alone but is nonetheless an interesting legal opinion.
According to the undisputed statement of facts, Scott Jeannette suffered cardiac arrest at work on June 7, 2011. He died more than a week later from complications associated with the cardiac arrest. Scott left behind his wife, Nacole and four-year-old son, Chase.
Nacole did not file a dependency claim for herself or her son until December 20, 2013. Since Scott died on June 16, 2011, the filing date was more than six months of the two-year statute of limitations.
The court dismissed both Nacole and Chase’s claims because they were not filed on time. However, Nacole argued that her claim should not be barred as she was temporarily incapacitated because of Scott’s death. Through her legal counsel, Nacole claimed that the statute of limitations should be tolled – or, put on hold.
Nacole’s attorney also argued that the statute of limitations for Chase’s dependency claim should also be tolled because he was minor and provided case law to further the argument. In the matter of Lafage v. Jani, 166 N.J. 412 (2001), the court did allow a time extension for a case under the Wrongful Death Act. Notwithstanding, the two-year statute of limitations is written in workers’ compensation law and cannot be challenged.
The lesson from this case is that it is critical to seek the advice of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.
Did you lose a loved one to an on-the-job accident? Let us help you. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone to learn more about making a workers’ compensation claim for dependency benefits.