South Dakota Lawyers Set Up Scholarship Fund for Children of Workplace Fatalities

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Many states in the U.S. have laws that require all employers to provide workers compensation that will cover 100% of medical costs for people who are injured on the job and offer cash benefits for lost work time after a waiting period of three to seven days. That’s a great insurance for many employees, but what happens when someone dies from a workplace incident? And furthermore, what happens to their families?

A new nonprofit organization in South Dakota called Kids’ Chance, which was founded last year by workers comp lawyers throughout the state, hopes to give the children of killed workers an opportunity for a bright and stable future with the help of a college scholarship fund.

Three scholarships were awarded in its inaugural year to college seniors: Anne Jonas, who will be going on to study at Northern State University in Aberdeen, and brothers Cody Kraft and Tanner Kraft of Timber Lake.

“It’s really awesome just to have that extra financial support that I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for a good chunk of my college,” Jonas said.

Jonas lost her father to a work-related accident in 2011. That same year, benefit payments for workers compensation totaled $60.2 billion, a 3.4% increase over the previous year.

President of Kids’ Chance, lawyer Michael McKnight, said that the organization hopes to make the scholarships an annual award. This year’s recipients will receive $4500 a year for their education, but future scholarships may vary depending on the number of applicants and funds available.

McKnight said that South Dakota has relatively few workplace fatalities, but that they can obviously have a long-lasting effect on families. Injuries do happen, though; in 2013, there were a reported 917,100 occupational injuries throughout the country that resulted in missed work days.

Jonas said the scholarship has helped her not only financially, but emotionally. “It’s a great organization to help others who’ve had unfortunate losses,” she said. Yet it also helped her understand that she was not alone in suffering through the loss of a parent due to workplace injuries.

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