On August 8, 2021, tragedy struck at Perdue Farms in Perry, GA.
Twenty-three-year-old Antonio Ramirez was electrocuted around 5:30 a.m. A manager noticed Ramirez kneeling in the “Hot Room” and assumed he was looking for something. Upon closer inspection, he realized Ramirez was being electrocuted.
Medics were called, and Ramirez was transported to Perry Hospital immediately. Unfortunately, he was ultimately pronounced dead. He leaves behind a wife, who is 3 months pregnant, as well as a 1-year-old child.
Ramirez was an employee of QSI, and had been contracted to clean the Perdue Farms plant.
On August 9th, QSI released the following statement:
“We are greatly saddened to report the death of a member of our QSI work family at our client’s facility in Perry, Georgia. At this time, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Antonio Ramirez family. In addition, our condolences go out to Antonio’s QSI associates. Antonio, a valued member of the QSI team, was a sanitation supervisor at our client’s Perry facility.
We are working with OSHA, local government authorities and our client in an investigation regarding this unfortunate event. QSI remains committed to maintaining stringent work safety protocols.
We are respecting the wishes of the Ramirez family to not disclose additional information at this time.”
Perdue Farms Inc. also released their own statement shortly after the accident:
“We are deeply saddened by the death of a contractor working for a company that cleans our production equipment who was fatally injured in an accident Sunday morning at our Prepared Food facility in Perry, GA. The safety of our workers and facilities is always Perdue’s top priority, and we are taking the matter very seriously. We are in communication with local authorities and the contracting company, and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and coworkers.”
Death benefits for surviving family members
This was a tragic incident, to be sure—but unfortunately one can happen in any workplace.
If the worst should happen, what rights do the surviving family members have?
Most surviving dependents are eligible for death benefits in the event of a tragic work fatality like in the case of the Ramirez family. There are the 2 categories of people who qualify: primary and secondary beneficiaries.
A “primary beneficiary” is considered a total dependent of the person who died and as such, they are entitled to recover all of the weekly dependency benefits under Georgia workers’ compensation law.
Primary beneficiaries can include just 2 groups of people:
- Spouse. A surviving husband or wife may obtain workers’ compensation death benefits under Georgia law. The only exception is if the spouses were living separately for a period of 90 days immediately prior to the accident which resulted in the death of the deceased employee.
- Child/children. A “child” includes biological children, dependent stepchildren, legally adopted children, posthumous children and acknowledged children born out of wedlock. However, it doesn’t include married children, even those who are under 18 years of age. Thus, the parent/child relationship is not limited by biology.
A secondary beneficiary is any dependent who isn’t a child or spouse of the deceased employee. They don’t have to have a biological connection to the deceased employee. Secondary beneficiaries are entitled to total or partial recovery only if a primary beneficiary waives their rights to benefits or when there are no primary beneficiaries.
Secondary beneficiaries can include:
- Family members (mother, father, grandchild, or grandparent)
A person will only be considered a secondary beneficiary if it can be proven that they were wholly or partially dependent on the decedent at the time of the accident, and any such dependency must have existed for a period of at least 3 months prior to the decedent’s fatal accident.
How to receive death benefits
In order to obtain death benefits, the eligible beneficiaries and dependents must notify the person’s employer of the employee’s death (if they don’t already know). The employer must then notify their workers’ compensation insurance carrier to begin the benefits process.
Any claim for workers’ compensation death benefits must be filed within 1 year of the fatal workplace accident.
To ensure that you and your family receive full and fair death benefits, it’s important you speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about your case. The sooner you can start exploring your legal rights, the better positioned you will be to seek the maximum award possible.