Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Deceased Pennsylvania worker's heirs entitled to benefits

Heirs to a worker that died from an overdose of a prescription medication prescribed to him due to a work related injury are entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The benefits were rewarded despite a review finding that concluded the use of the drugs were not necessary.

The deceased worker injured his lower back a number of years ago in a work-related accident. This individual died five-years later in 2007 from, according to a forensic pathology report, of a "drug intoxication due to an overdose of fentanyl prescribed for his work injury."

The findings of the court were complicated by a utilization review request in 2006 where a physician hired by the employer concluded that a number of prescriptions including fentanyl were unnecessary concerning their former worker's medical condition. This resulted in the employer denying any further workers' compensation benefits for the former employee.

However, a judge in 2009 ruled that the heirs of the then deceased employee were entitled to the benefits as this involved an accidental overdose of medication prescribed for the work-related injuries. The ruling of this judge has now been sustained at an appellate level.

Workers are often required to jump through additional hoops as the result of a work-related injury, so the above situation should not be considered uncommon. But because such claims can be so complex, it is important that an injured worker consult with an attorney that is experienced in the workers' compensation area to insure that his or her claims are handled fairly.

Worker injuries can have lasting impact and can linger long after the individual has left his place of employment. As in the above situation, it would be unjust to deprive an employee of his disability benefits pursuant to workers' compensation simply because there are disagreements as to how that individual's injuries should be treated.

Source: Business Insurance, "Injured worker's opioid overdose death ruled compensable," by Roberto Ceniceros, Dec. 5, 2011

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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