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Casualty in the Workplace: Workers’ Compensation Benefits vs. Wrongful Death Claims

Anyone can experience an accident at a workplace at any time and some lines of work are naturally more dangerous than others. Even so, we have to examine the facts of each individual event to determine the proper cause of action for the victim’s loved ones.

In some cases, accidents can occur that tragically end a person’s life. Fortunately, the workers’ compensation system in the State of California provides the victim’s survivors with death benefits when the victim has passed away as a result of something that happened while on the job. These death benefits can often be a necessary income lifeline for the victim’s survivors, especially if the victim was the sole provider for their family.

Certain work-related deaths, are not the result of a simple accident. Under explicit circumstances, a worker may have been due to another’s negligence. This article will provide a simplified overview of wrongful death claims and how workers’ compensation benefits differ.

Although there may be an opportunity to obtain some limited financial compensation through workers’ compensation benefits, there may also be valid grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. A proficient attorney can help to understand benefits available under both areas of the law.  While no amount of financial compensation can bring back a loved one, financial help/recovery can certainly ease the burden to get back on solid financial ground. 

Workers’ Compensation Benefits vs. Wrongful Death Claims

Workers’ compensation is designed to provide benefits to a worker who has been injured or to the dependents of one who has passed away as a result of the job.

Workers’ compensation is also, though, designed to safeguard companies and employers from being sued for the work-related injury or death – even if there was negligence. Unfortunately, this means that even if a company or employer violated safety regulations, such as those set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they may be protected under workers’ compensation rules.  Exceptions do apply though, and prompt consultations with an experienced attorney is vital.

In the event that a third party caused the death, however, the victim’s survivors may have a valid wrongful death claim. Any third party may involve any of the following parties:

  • Contractors;
  • Subcontractors;
  • Negligent equipment manufacturers or maintenance technicians;
  • Dangerous conditions caused by others;
  • Others on the job that are not co-employees

A wrongful death claim includes:

  • The victim passed away as a result of another’s negligence or fault, and
  • The heirs have suffered loss of care, comfort, society and/or support of their loved one as a result.

When a victim’s family seeks to obtain financial restitution for these losses, only a wrongful death claim will compensate these types of grievances.  Workers’ Compensation programs will not.  Workers’ Compensation is limited in amount(s).  Workers with both claims, usually, are not. Compensation for the full amount(s) and type(s) of loss are generally what sets a workers’ compensation claim apart from that of a wrongful death claim.

The Bottom Line

If you or someone you know has recently lost a loved one as a result of a workplace injury, immediately seek the advice and support of a trusted attorney who can provide the necessary legal guidance. A skilled attorney can help you understand the available legal options as well as help to determine which claim(s) will be best.

The attorneys at Heiting & Irwin are experts in the fields of workers’ compensation claims and wrongful death lawsuits. Mourning the passing of a loved one is stressful and traumatic.  It can be all-consuming.  Seek the legal support of a trusted attorney who can help you through this difficult time.

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