Man Worked to Death – Family Eligible for Workers’ Comp Death Benefits

August 18, 2015

Family Can Claim Workers’ Compensation Benefits when Man is Victim of Being “Worked to Death”

death benefits in Pennsylvania

In some cases, it is clear that the death of a worker is related to his job. Other times, it is not quite so obvious.

In an unusual case, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed a Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board decision and ruled that a man’s family is entitled to death benefits after he had a heart attack at work. It is rare for the Court to over rule the Board and unusual for a heart attack to be attributed to work.

What Happened?

The man, Robert Dietz, “died of a heart attack while performing hard physical labor.” Apparently he was working a 14-hour shift and it was typically part of his job to operate a jack hammer.  The Court found that, “[t]he overwhelming circumstantial evidence in this case shows that exertion from Decedent’s regular work activities over the court of a 14-hour workday caused his heart attack.” The doctor testifying for Dietz’s employer claimed that Dietz could have had a heart attack at any point, it simply happened to occur at work. The Court disagreed and ruled that the cause of his death was a “long work day performing strenuous physical labor.” It is likely that the employer will appeal this case.

What are Death Benefits?

In Pennsylvania, death benefits generally provide a percentage of wages along with up to $3000 for burial expenses. These benefits are available to dependent relatives including spouses and minor children. In the case of minor children, the benefits are paid to the surviving parent on their behalf, unless there is no surviving parent. In some cases, parents and siblings might be eligible for death benefits as well. In order for parents or siblings to receive death benefits, they must be able to show that they were dependent upon the deceased worker.

How Do Relatives Claim These Benefits?

If you are the spouse, minor child or dependent parent or sibling of someone who died because of work, it is critical to file a claim as soon as possible. Death benefit cases are generally complicated, especially when it is not clear whether the job was responsible for the death. As a result, it is best to seek the assistance of a certified expert in Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law as soon as possible. Timing is critical.


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