Separate claim not required for comp survival benefits


Connecticut's workers' compensation system provides financial and medical assistance to workers who suffer a work-related injury or illness. Families of a worker who died from a work injury or illness are also entitled to survivor benefits. However, these rights are not automatic because time restrictions govern these laws and recipients have to act promptly.

Connecticut requires the filing of workers' compensation claims within one year from the date of the accident and within three years from the appearance of an occupational disease symptom. Where death occurred within two years of the date of the accident or the first appearance of an occupational disease symptom, surviving family members may file a claim for compensation from the later date of the two-year period or one year from the date of death.

Events sometimes occur, however, which complicate the clear application of seemingly straight-forward requirements and time limitations. The state Supreme Court addressed a unique case earlier this month where a widow sought survivor benefits where her husband timely filed a claim for disability benefits, although she did not file a separate claim for survivor benefits within one year after he died.

In that case, her husband was exposed to toxins and was afflicted with disabling pulmonary fibrosis through his use of carbon arc lamps at his job over 18 years. He filed a claim for compensation benefits within the legal time limit. Three years after filing this claim and receiving medical treatment, the worker died. The claim was not accepted and benefits were not granted before his death. His wife then filed for survivor's benefits 55 weeks after he died.

The Court ruled that the widow did not violate the statute of limitations for filing her survivor benefits claim one year after his death and six years after the manifestation of the symptoms of his illness. It found that Connecticut's workers' compensation law did not require the filing of an independent claim for survivor's benefits if the worker earlier filed a timely claim for benefits during his lifetime. The state legislature, not the courts, had the sole authority to insert the requirement of a second filing into the compensation law.

Source: Connecticut Judicial Branch, "McCullough v. Swan Engraving, Inc., SC 19480 (Conn. 2016)," Accessed Feb. 8, 2016

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