Workers’ Compensation

Ca. Workers' Comp. Quarterly 2016, Vol. 29, No. 3

When None May Speak – a Look at Circumstantial Evidence in Death Cases

THE HON. SHILOH A. RASSMUSSON

Van Nuys, California

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and in no way reflect the opinions of the California Department of Industrial Relations, the Division of Workers’ Compensation, or the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

If there is such a thing as a "typical" workers’ compensation case, it is one where the applicant is an industrially injured worker seeking benefits for the worker’s own industrial injuries. Such applicants are available to testify, attend medical evaluations, and answer the questions of attorneys, doctors, and judges. The applicant can provide details of the injury, what they were doing at the time they were hurt, to whom the injury was reported, which body parts were injured, and so on. Direct evidence may be obtained in these cases not only from medical examinations but also through sworn testimony. However, in death cases, direct testimonial evidence from the decedent is obviously no longer possible. And in these cases, circumstantial evidence – or the lack thereof – can be determinative.

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