Baltimore city officials identified a DPW worker who was found dead after falling into a Baltimore wastewater treatment vat of water as Trina Cunningham. Cunningham was a longtime public employee of 20 years, and had been at the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant in Curtis Bay for three years. She had been walking along a catwalk inside the building when she fell into 20 feet of water. Her body was later found in a filtration system 600 feet away from where DPW workers believe a bridge gave way.

Death benefits.

When someone dies as a result of their job, it may be necessary to contact experienced legal counsel to assist in a determination of death benefits. The amount of death benefits that the deceased employee’s family will be entitled to will be based on their financial dependency to the worker at the time of their death.

Time restrictions.

If a covered employee died as a result of a work injury, employer notification must occur within 30 days of the death, or one year if death was caused by an occupational disease. A death benefit claim must be filed with the Maryland Commission no later than 18 months after death due to injury, and within two years from the death due to an occupational disease, regardless of whether the employee’s dependents were aware that the death was caused by the employment.

Dependency determination.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) determines all questions of partial or total dependency, but it is common for a surviving spouse to receive death benefits, unless they were absent from the worker’s life for more than one year before the accident, if they deserted them, or if they married them after the accident and had no children.

Death benefits payable to a wholly dependent individual will equal two-thirds of the average weekly wage of the deceased worker, not to exceed 100% of the statewide average weekly wages.  The employer/insurer must pay the weekly benefit for either the period of the total dependency or until $45,000 is paid. Benefit amounts will change if a surviving spouse’s working or marital relationship changes, but as long as a surviving spouse, or surviving child(ren) continue to be wholly dependent after $45,000 has been paid, the employer/insurer will continue to make payments at the same rate during the total dependency of the surviving spouse. Payments usually stop when a child reaches 18, unless (1) the child is incapable of self-support because of mental or physical disability, or (2) the child is attending school full time and is under age 23.

Seek legal counsel.

Contact an experienced worker’s compensation attorney at Murnane & ONeill, to review the individual case and see what death benefits may be available after a work-related death.

Murnane & O’Neill

7425 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd.
Glen Burnie, MD 21061

(t): 410.761.6800
(f): 410.761.0198



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