Among the millions of workplace accidents that occur each year, a small yet significant number tragically escalate to fatal outcomes. In 2021 alone, this figure reached a disconcerting tally of 5,190.
These are not mere statistics but lives irreplaceably lost, leaving families in shock and despair. But amidst the grief, it’s important to recognize that the bereaved families and dependents hold a rightful claim to compensation.
This article seeks to guide individuals and families grappling with such circumstances, offering them the requisite knowledge and resources they need. So, we invite you to continue reading, for understanding is the first step towards recovery and justice.
Understanding Workplace Accidents and Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation coverage is compulsory for employers in most states and serves as a safety net, providing medical benefits and wage replacement for employees injured or falling ill due to work-related circumstances. Even in states where it’s not compulsory, employers are liable for incidents that occur in the workplace; only this time, they have to carry liability directly.
“The premise of workers’ compensation insurance lies in a trade-off. Workers relinquish their right to sue for negligence in exchange for guaranteed compensation, irrespective of fault,” says workers’ compensation attorney Scott Silberman of Silberman & Lam, LLP.
The degree of risk of workplace accidents varies across industries. The construction, transportation, and agricultural sectors consistently register the most workplace accidents and fatalities in America, highlighting the pressing need for comprehensive workers’ compensation coverage in these high-risk industries.
Compensation for Fatal Workplace Accidents
Fatal workplace compensation is distinct from typical workers’ compensation, primarily in terms of who files the claim. Instead of the injured worker, a dependent or representative of the deceased’s estate initiates the claim process.
In some jurisdictions, there are generally two types of claims: dependency claims and psychological injury or nervous shock claims. Dependency claims are for dependents who rely on the deceased for financial support, while psychological injury claims involve the emotional trauma experienced by family members.
Claims can be made through the workers’ compensation cover/government scheme or pursued in court. Regardless of the approach, obtaining legal advice is highly recommended, given the complex nature of these claims.
Filing a Claim Directly From the Employer
Under certain circumstances, claimants may circumvent the workers’ compensation system and file a claim directly against the deceased’s employer. This route typically becomes appropriate when the employer has failed to provide workers’ compensation coverage or when factors such as intentional conduct or gross misconduct have contributed to the accident.
For instance, a direct claim can be made if an employer intentionally creates an unsafe work environment, leading to a fatal accident. Similarly, if gross misconduct, such as a blatant disregard for safety protocols, was a factor, the employer could be held directly accountable.
Filing a claim against the employer directly involves a different legal process than a typical workers’ compensation claim. This process can allow dependents to recover all damages, including non-economic damages, which are generally not recoverable under workers’ compensation.
It Is a More Complex Process
However, the path to filing a claim directly against an employer can be intricate and challenging, making professional legal representation essential. An experienced lawyer can help navigate the complexities, ensure the claim is appropriately filed, and advocate for the dependents’ rights to proper compensation.
Remember, each situation is unique, and the best course of action depends on the circumstances surrounding the fatal workplace accident and a lawyer is best placed to make the call.
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