Widow Gets Husband's Retroactive Disability Payments

A widow from the Haifa suburbs will receive her husband's disability stipends from the National Insurance Institute, after it was determined that his death six years ago was caused partly by asbestos inhalation at his workplace, the Haifa Labor Court ruled.

The man died in 2003 at age 70 from heart disease and asbestosis, a chronic lung disease caused by prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers. He had spent 26 years working with the substance.

After his death, his widow, G., sued the NII to have her husband's illness declared a work-related injury. Following a protracted legal battle, the Labor Court decided the NII must retroactively recognize his disease and pay his widow workman's compensation for the last three years of his life.

In addition, the court ruled that the widow should receive a dependent's allowance, a monthly payment made in cases where work-related injuries led to the death of the insured.

In her decision, Judge Ofra Verbner ruled that asbestosis was a significant factor in the death. "As this is a social security matter, and one injustice is being weighed against another, where there is any doubt, the law must be interpreted in favor of the insured, not the NII," the judge wrote.

Attorney Eytan Peleg, who represented G., called the decision a precedent.

"People do not know that you can continue proceedings on behalf of those whose claims are refused by the NII even after the death of the insured. When there is ambiguity about the cause of death, it is important to exhaust all possible avenues, because the ambiguity may benefit the injured party."

The widow said she had mixed feelings about the decision. "This money belongs to my husband," she said.