Workers’ compensation is designed to give financial benefits to an employee who is injured when on the job. This also applies if an employee dies when on the job and provides financial aid to his/her dependents.
Several people do not realize is that it is designed to protect people from being sued for inquiries or deaths related to a job – even if an employer was negligent or employer contributed to a hazardous workplace environment. This means that even if a company violated safety standards, like those set by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it is still protected by the workers’ compensation laws.
At the same time, if a third party caused the workplace death, the surviving family may be able to file the wrongful death lawsuit against that party, but not the employer. That third party can be a contractor or faulty equipment’s manufacturer.
To file the wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving members have to prove that:
- Their loved one passed away owing to the negligence of someone else.
- The family suffered harm due to the demise of their loved one, like lost earning capacity or income, and/or intangible loses like pain and suffering, lost partnership, decreased quality of life, and so forth.
Compensation for losses that are intangible is part of what makes the wrongful death claim different in comparison – workers’ compensation does not give benefits for these things. The surviving family can often recover more through a wrongful death lawsuit than through workers’ compensation.
Wrongful death benefits can comprise:
- Medical as well as other injuries, plus demise-related expenses the person and his or her surviving family incurred from the negligent act’s moment until the demise.
- Funeral as well as burial expenses incurred.
- Lost wages that would have been obtained by the deceased individual until his or her retirement.
- Loss of care, assistance, services, and other benefits given by the deceased.
- Other damages like pain and suffering.
In California, there is a two-year deadline to file the lawsuit from the date of the demise. This is called the “statute of limitations”. (Note that the claims in the state are not limited to wrongful death incidents happened due to workplace negligence.)
Pros and Cons to Filing the Claims
Workers’ Compensation: One of the action’s main benefits is there is no necessity to prove negligence of your loved one contributed to her or his demise; collecting benefits is considered as easy a task as filing the claim. The major downside is that you drop your right to sue the at-fault employer for damages by filing it; there are no benefits for intangible losses and death benefits for this are capped at a predetermined figure.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit: The major benefit of filing this is the greater compensation potential, comprising benefits for your intangible losses; plus, wrongful demise suits that comprise punitive damage grants can help deter misconduct in the future, as well as there are no damage limits. The main downside to filing the suit is that it can take a long time to get the settlement amount.
If you have lost your family member due to a workplace accident, consult the matter with an attorney. An experienced professional can help you recover as much as possible from workers’ compensation and help you realize whether the wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate.