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Work comp, death benefits and a tire-strewn highway

While pulling a tire fragment from a roadway, a New Jersey turnpike maintenance worker was struck and killed by a small truck on the morning of July 10. The victim had parked his work vehicle on the shoulder and switched on the flashing amber lights designed to caution drivers on the presence of workers on foot.

According to news reports, after the truck struck the worker, the driver stopped at the scene of the accident. The reports indicated only that the accident was under investigation and that no arrests had been made; it was not revealed whether or not the driver was on the job at the time.

A worker killed in the course of his employment is normally covered by workers' compensation insurance for death benefits with the amount set by state law. In New Jersey, these benefits are payable to dependents, defined as a surviving spouse and natural children of the marriage and are calculated as a percentage of the workers' weekly salary, up to a maximum amount. In addition, New Jersey law allows up to $3,500 in funeral expenses to the survivors.

Most public road workers, in New Jersey and elsewhere, are employed by state highway authorities that rely on a public self-insurance fund. If the driver was found at fault for the accident, this fund might pursue a liability case against either his private auto insurance, if he had insurance, or his employer's liability carrier, if he was working at the time. Although traffic laws are designed to protect construction and maintenance workers on the road, and require drivers to slow their vehicles in the presence of workers, the police accident report would be a key document in determining who was at fault for the accident.

Source: Maplewood Patch, "Maintenance Worker Killed on NJ Turnpike", Mike Pignataro, July 11, 2014

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