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Compromises in life and death

The Pennsylvania man spent a lifetime at the wire mesh manufacturer. He began working at New York Wire Company in York County more than 40 years ago. His life ended in an industrial accident at the plant when a spool of wire weighing thousands of pounds fell on him.

He left behind his wife of 42 years and an adult daughter. Both were bitterly disappointed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fine levied on the company. "Kind of ridiculous" is how the man's daughter described the $7,000 fine for the safety violations involved in her father's death.

In fact, the company didn't even pay that much. It negotiated the fine down to $5,600, according to a news article.

His widow would not discuss the matter with the reporter, but the daughter said the amount was "not good enough for her." According to Pennsylvania workers' compensation law, the widow cannot sue the company, even if she believes it is at fault for her husband's death.

The spouse can be entitled to a funeral stipend of $3,000 and death benefits (51 percent of her loved one's average weekly wages), however. Dependent children can also be eligible for benefits.

A York County workers' comp attorney said that while the small fine and modest benefits might seem "patently unfair," the Pennsylvania system is balanced. He pointed out "that there are plenty of cases where people get hurt on the job and it's not necessarily the employer's fault but (the worker) is still covered."

While that's true, it's also true that there are many cases in which the employer or insurer try to deny workers' comp benefits to employees hurt while on the job. A skilled workers' compensation attorney then fights to protect the worker and secure those needed benefits.

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