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Mother denied death benefits for Georgia city worker

In Georgia, eligibility for death benefits associated with workers' compensation has specific guidelines. A case in which a Cuthbert city worker died in July 2010 due to work-related injuries points out how family eligibility is established.

In this case, the man, 37, was using a city mower and was killed when he crashed into a ditch. At the time, the man was unmarried and without dependents. His only heir was his mother. The mother was denied workers' compensation death benefits for her son since she was not his dependent. When making the decision, the city relied on criteria listed in the act that governs workers' compensation in the state.

In Oct. 2013, the superior court in Randolph County denied the mother's argument that not giving her the death benefits was in violation of her constitutional right of equal protection and due process. She appealed the superior court's ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court. The court affirmed the lower court's decision, saying that the statute did not violate her rights by denying her death benefits.

The court expanded on this by saying the lower court's ruling was appropriate since the statute rationally coincided with the government's goal and did not violate her right to due process. The mother's challenge to the ruling regarding equal protection was also denied since the statute's legitimate objective did not violate her constitutional rights. Other courts have responded to this issue and upheld the right of workers' compensation to deny death benefits to a non-dependent, and the Georgia court acknowledged this in their decision.

Workers' compensation benefits are state specific and detailed. Eligibility is not guaranteed, and consultation with an attorney experienced in this area may provide a family with insight into their claim. An attorney may also represent the family if a compensation claim is denied.

Source: Albany Herald, "Georgia Supreme Court rules against Cuthbert woman in death benefits claim", September 22, 2014

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