Workers’ Comp Death Benefit Ruling Upheld by Georgia Supreme Court

Posted on Sep 29, 2014

The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld a superior court decision denying a Cuthbert woman’s claim for benefits following the on-the-job death of her adult son. In a unanimous decision released on September 22, the high court upheld the Randoph County Superior Court decision against Louise Shorter Barzey, ruling that she is not entitled to death benefits for her son, who was killed while working for the City of Cuthbert in 2010. If you have lost a loved one in a workplace accident in Atlanta, Marietta, or elsewhere in Georgia, contact our workers’ compensation lawyers at Rechtman & Spevak today. You may be entitled to death benefits for the loss of your loved one, which our knowledgeable attorneys can help you pursue.

On-the-Job Fatality in Georgia

The workplace fatality in question took place in July 2010, as 37-year-old Deron Shorter was operating a mower for the City of Cuthbert. According to reports, Shorter crashed into a ditch and the mower turned over on top of him. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Shorter, who at the time of his death was single and had no dependents, also had no heirs other than his mother. However, since Louise Shorter Barzey was not a dependent of her son, officials with the City of Cuthbert determined that she was not entitled to death benefits under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. According to the Act, a death benefit may only be paid to a legal dependent, and the only compensation for a deceased worker who has no dependents is the cost of the burial.

Distinction Between Dependents, Heirs

According to Barzey’s claim for workers’ compensation death benefits, drawing a distinction between dependents and heirs violated her federal constitutional right to due process and equal protection, by preventing her from bringing a claim to recover benefits for her son’s death. In October 2013, the trial court ruled against Barzey, at which point she appealed to the state Supreme Court. In the recent Supreme Court decision however, Justice David Nahmias ruled in favor of the superior court decision, writing, “We affirm the trial court’s ruling that the Act’s limitation on the recovery of non-dependent heirs does not violate Barzey’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.”

Our Experienced Workers’ Comp Lawyers Can Help

If you believe you may be entitled to medical or death benefits for an on-the-job accident in Georgia, consult our reputable attorneys at Rechtman & Spevak today for legal help. Our law firm is located in Atlanta, and our workers’ compensation attorneys have years of experience helping injured workers and their families pursue the benefits they deserve for their losses. With a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer on your side, you can ensure that your legal rights are protected, and pursue the benefits you deserve for your workplace injury, or your loved one’s job-site death.

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