The Law Office of Gary C. Nelson

We’re On Your Side

California worker’ compensation issues can be tricky

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2013 | Workers' Compensation |

When a California worker is injured or killed while on the job, state workers’ compensation benefits are in place to assist them or their families. In many cases, an employee’s entitlement to workers’ compensation is clear-cut, and benefits may be received with minimal paperwork and within a relatively fast timeframe. However, there are other instances in which the matter can be very complicated, and where eligibility for these benefits can be called into question.

The recent death of a young woman who was working for an exotic animal park provides an example of a complex case. The 24-year-old woman entered a big cat enclosure at the facility, and was subsequently mauled to death by a male African lion. When sheriff’s deputies arrived, she was still alive with the lion standing nearby. Deputies had to shoot the animal to gain safe entry into the enclosure.

At question in this case is whether the woman was a paid employee or an intern at the facility. California workers’ compensation law has strict requirements concerning employee status versus an unpaid internship, and reports concerning this case are unclear as to the woman’s position at the facility. Should it be deemed that she was an employee, her family could be entitled to receive benefits following her death.

When a California employee is killed on the job, workers’ compensation benefits are available to their spouse, children or other dependents. Obtaining those benefits can make a world of difference to a family that is struggling to redefine its structure following this type of tragic loss. However, in complex cases as the one mentioned here, it can be difficult to obtain proper workers’ compensation without litigation.

Source:, “W. Washington woman killed by lion at Calif. animal park,” Gosia Wozniacka, Mar. 6, 2013