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Whale trainer's family likely entitled to workers' compensation

SeaWorld holds a magical attraction to many potential tourists from Illinois and across the country. It allows millions of people to get an up close look at sea animals that they would normally only be able to view from an extreme distance. Unfortunately, after the death of one of its trainers, the tourist attraction has found itself subject to a fine and stricter safety regulations. While the company begins making an argument in federal court, the family of the deceased trainer may benefit from workers' compensation benefits.

An experienced 40-year-old trainer was working with a 12,000 pound orca during a performance at SeaWorld. The performance that should have been routine went horribly wrong when the whale grabbed the trainer by the foot and pulled her into the water. Other workers were unable to retrieve her body from the pool for approximately 45 minutes.

As a result of an investigation into the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a $12,000 fine and stricter safety regulations against SeaWorld. The main issue for the company is a clause in the federal law that mandates employers provide a work environment that is completely free of known hazards. SeaWorld claims that due to the nature of the job, there will almost always be a certain degree of risk associated with it. The court's ruling in the case could set a new federal precedent for regulations surrounding a workplace.

Unfortunately, the accident has not only impacted the operations of SeaWorld, but has likely had a major emotional and financial impact on the family of the deceased trainer. Most states, like Illinois, require employers to provide workers' compensation coverage to their employees that can extend to cover family members in the event of a fatal accident. However, people have found that the path to compensation is sometimes confusing and complicated, and assistance in navigating confusing state laws can be helpful to ensure full compensation is received in a timely manner.

Source: McClatchy DC, WASHINGTON: SeaWorld appeals penalty, restrictions imposed after trainer's death, Michael Doyle, Nov. 8, 2013

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ITLA WCLA Illinois State Bar Association
Super Lawyers ABA- American Bar Association The Chicago Bar Association Founded 1874
 Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association Lake County Bar Association Recommended By Peers For Leading Lawyers Network