Illinois Court Upholds Denial of Widow’s Claim for Lump Sum Payment of Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

In a recent case, a claimant who was the widow of a deceased worker appealed an order from a lower court arising from a decision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that denied the claimant’s request for a lump-sum payout of the benefits awarded to her. The facts of the underlying case are as follows. The claimant’s husband died when the crop duster he was piloting for his employer malfunctioned. After the accident occurred, the decedent’s employer began paying the plaintiff weekly payments in the amount of $1,231.41. After an arbitration hearing, the claimant was awarded death benefits at the amount of $461.78 per week.

Shortly thereafter, the claimant filed a petition for a lump sum payout. The Commissioner overseeing the matter conducted a hearing at which the claimant testified. In her testimony, she claimed she knew she was authorized to accept a $500,000 lump sum payment or periodic installments for 25 years. In her testimony, she also stated that the reason she wanted the lump sum payment was to gain control of the benefits and to prevent losing the benefits should some change in the law or other event affect her benefits award. She also testified that she was not seeking the lump sum payout due to financial hardship, that she had no minor children, and that her job at an ethanol plant was sufficient to meet her financial needs.

The Commission denied the claimant’s petition, citing precedent indicating that lump sum payments are the exception rather than the rule. To award a lump sum, the Commission must find that the lump sum settlement is in the best interests of both parties, rather than just the party requesting the payout. Also, the claimant has the burden of establishing their entitlement to a lump sum payment. The claimant immediately appealed the Commission’s decision to the Third District Appellate Court of Illinois, Workers’ Compensation Commission Division.

In upholding the Commission’s ruling, the appellate court concluded that the claimant failed to demonstrate that she had a compelling reason or need to receive the lump sum payout. She also failed to offer any evidence suggesting that a payout was in the best interest of both parties. The appellate court also rejected the claimant’s contention that the loss of her husband’s income justified a payout, particularly since she failed to demonstrate why the installment payments did not provide an adequate alternative.

If you have suffered a work injury, you may be entitled to compensation. At Therman Law Offices, our dedicated team of skilled workers’ compensation lawyers has the experience and dedication it takes to ensure that injured employees pursue the compensation and benefits that they deserve. Workers’ compensation laws can be complicated and confusing, especially if you have no prior experience. To set up your free consultation, call us now at 312-588-1900 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

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