Judge's gavelThe Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission recently found that the husband of a deceased water meter reader was entitled to workers’ compensation even though his late wife was working as a contractor and not a full-time employee. The Commission’s decision was also upheld by two Illinois courts.

Donald Fohrman, a workers’ compensation lawyer in Chicago, fully supports the decision. “Employers will frequently argue that contractors aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation benefits,” he explained. “However, that’s usually only true in the strictest sense of being a freelance contractor. In most contracting positions, there’s a blend of freelance and employer-defined responsibilities.”

The case began in March 2011, when Jacqueline Harvey died while conducting work as a water meter reader. Mrs. Harvey suffered a seizure while doing a meter reading. She fell into a puddle that was approximately eight inches deep and drowned. Although nearby homeowners, tried to resuscitate her, she passed away at a nearby hospital.

Her husband then filed for workers’ compensation benefits. His claim was initially denied because of his wife’s contractor status. However, Mr. Harvey appealed and the Commission ruled in his favor. He received payment for medical expenses, burial costs, and weekly compensation for the next 25 years.

In its ruling, the commission stated that although Mrs. Harvey was a contractor, her work was defined by the city for whom she worked. She had a mandate to read a minimum number of meters each week and was also required to travel to rural areas that may have lacked drainage.

Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer Donald Fohrman expressed his support for the decision. “A contractor designation alone doesn’t decide whether someone can receive benefits,” he added. “The decision should be based on the nature of one’s work. If an employer states that you have to do certain work at a certain time and in a specific location, and that work leads to death or injury, then workers’ compensation should be a viable option.”

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