Accidents at work are far too common, with some jobs considered high risk compared to others. Sometimes, such accidents are fatal, and it is essential to be aware of the next step of action when such a misfortune occurs.
If the death of your loved one occurred at their workplace, you might be eligible for death benefits under the workers’ compensation program. However, the law also allows you to file a civil lawsuit against parties who you think were responsible for their death. Below is what you need to know about fatal workplace accidents.
Common Causes of Workplace Fatalities
Over 5,000 workplace deaths were recorded in 2019 alone. The leading causes of death at work include:
- Accidental falls from heights
- Being hit by falling objects
- Car accidents
- Accidents arising during operation of heavy equipment
- Inhalation of toxic fumes or chemicals
What are Death Benefits?
Death benefits are payouts made to beneficiaries upon the death of the insured. As the dependent, you are entitled to compensation if you lost a loved one at the workplace under the workers’ compensation program. The definition of a dependent varies per state, and it boils down to the relationship with the deceased. Relation through blood or marriage is the threshold, but it may include anyone who depended on the deceased for their living expenses.
Depending on the state in question, death benefits are paid out in lump sum payments or installments and are usually based on what the deceased used to earn. The actual amount paid out and the limits thereof lie on the state the workplace death occurred, with each jurisdiction having its own set of rules.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, employers cannot be sued for workplace death if they have workers’ compensation insurance. The workers’ compensation system provides an exclusive remedy for death or work-related injuries. Therefore, it is difficult to sue employers for the death of a loved one since the Act protects them from civil actions like negligence.
However, there are exceptions to the rule, and employers can be held liable if they intentionally or willfully caused the death at the workplace.
Third-Party Litigation in a Workplace Fatality
As the dependent, you can file a wrongful death claim against a third party that may have contributed to your loved one’s death. It may include a contractor on the job or a defective equipment manufacturer with a hand in the fatal accident. You must prove their negligence contributed to the death of your loved one and the effect it has had on the quality of your life.
Here, you may sue for both economic and non-economic damages resulting from the loss of your loved one.
The Importance of an Attorney in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The law around workers’ compensation differs from state to state, and getting in touch with a lawyer is very important. The time one has to instigate legal proceedings varies in individual states and the laws are different regarding workplace fatalities.
For instance, Kentucky laws allow workers to preserve the right to sue their employer by filling in a waiver with the Department of Workers’ Claims. In such an instance, a wrongful death attorney in Kentucky is best placed to advise on the ideal course of action after looking at the circumstances of the fatal accident.
Involving an attorney when negotiating a settlement package will protect you from being taken advantage of in your time of need.