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Husband of woman killed may have to repay workers' compensation

In early 2009, a fatal accident occurred in Denver, Colorado. Two women who were in Denver for a work convention were killed after their taxi was struck by a drunk driver. The husband of one of the women filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident and won a settlement.

Unfortunately, now the husband is finding out that the town that his wife worked for is now seeking to take back any workers' compensation benefits that it had paid after his wife's death. If the town does recoup the compensation, the husband and his family may end up with very little from the settlement.

The details of the workers' compensation claim are not given in the article. However it seems that workers' compensation benefits were paid out to the woman's family because she had been killed while at a conference for work. But according to the laws of the state that the woman resided in, the town can get back the amount paid for workers' compensation benefits when someone else is sued for the death.

Here, the husband did in fact sue a third party, the drunk driver. But should he have to give back the workers' compensation benefits? Is this fair?

The woman who was killed was a librarian that was well-known and loved in her community. But if her husband has to return the compensation benefits he probably won't keep any of the wrongful death settlement either. The purpose of workers' compensation is to in fact compensate the woman's loved ones for the loss of her support.

The town can seek reimbursement but is not required to. In a situation like this are they being too aggressive? Currently a representative for the town has not commented directly on the case but has acknowledged that given the circumstances the town will remain sensitive towards the woman's family.

Source: Greenwich Time online, "Librarian's family in legal tussle with town," Lisa Chamoff, 27 January 2011

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