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California woman killed by lion; Workers' compensation case?

Fatal accidents suffered while working can leave surviving family members reeling from an unexpected loss. Even when a job has obvious danger associated with it, few expect that someone who leaves for work that morning may not be returning home safely that evening. In certain cases, surviving relatives may be able to file for workers' compensation survivor benefits to help cover some of the final costs associated with a loved one's death. One California worker recently suffered fatal injuries when a lion at the exotic animal park where she worked mauled her.

Cal-OSHA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering with several other state and federal agencies in an investigation of the deadly incident. They hope to discover whether Cat Haven, the park where the woman worked, was following proper procedures at the time of the attack. Specifically, investigators indicated interest in finding out whether the park provided proper written safety guidelines for its workers to follow.

Unfortunately, the woman wasn't the only one to lose her life in this incident. When a staff member was unable to lure the lion away to another enclosure, California police officials were forced to shoot the animal in order to safely reach the woman. Their attempts to rescue the woman failed, however, and she succumbed to her wounds at the scene of the accident.

As investigators attempt to decipher whether the exotic park had proper safety procedures in place, this woman's family is left to mourn her passing. While she worked in an inherently risky environment by virtue of being around big cats, the park employing her still owes a duty to provide a safe workplace and properly train its employees. Regardless, her family may be able to file for workers' compensation survivor benefits in order to pay for her funeral and other related expenses. This may not bring her back, but it could alleviate some of the financial burden now placed upon a family who is likely already grieving her loss. In many cases where the individual injured or killed is was an intern or volunteer, it may be necessary to investigate the applicable state laws to ensure coverage, or to inquire if the employer voluntarily added the individual to the company's workers' compensation insurance coverage, as many do.

Source: ABC News, "USDA, Cal-OSHA Join Investigation Into Lion Attack," Gosia Wozniacka and Tracie Cone, March 7, 2013

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