Workplace wrongful death is one of the most tragic things to happen to thousands of families every year. Loved ones head to work expecting to return home at the end of the day. Then tragedy strikes, and family members receive the call: “there’s been an accident”. Receiving this kind of phone call is the beginning of what will become an emotionally trying time for a grief stricken family.
This writeup will seek to lay out exactly what surviving family members must know to protect their rights after they’ve suffered a wrongful death. No matter how the wrongful death occurred, victims have rights. Personal Injury lawyers are there to ensure those rights are upheld.
Within this writeup, we’ll provide information Florida families need to know after experiencing a wrongful death in the workplace:
- What does OSHA say about wrongful death?
- Why is a lawyer necessary after wrongful death?
- Lawsuit or workman’s compensation?
- What are survival actions?
- When does a wrongful death case go to trial?
What does OSHA say about wrongful death?
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the statistics for construction site-specific related workplace wrongful death is staggering! Nearly 19%! OSHA lists causes of the most common reasons for construction site employee deaths. These causes are the “fatal four”.
What are the “fatal four” according to OSHA?
- Crush injuries (caught between or inside construction equipment)
- Blunt force injuries (struck by falling or swinging object not properly secured)
Why is a lawyer necessary after a wrongful death?
When a family member loses a loved one the last thing they want to think about is the legal process. They’re grieving, and don’t want to think that the law may need to be involved for the deceased to see justice served. That’s why a Personal Injury lawyer with experience is necessary in workplace wrongful death cases.
Unfortunately, the reality is much different. It’s important to hire a Personal Injury lawyer as soon as it becomes feasible after a wrongful death. An experienced Personal Injury lawyer will be understanding and compassionate to the family’s grief. This compassion ensures the legal process doesn’t cause them further mental anguish. An experienced lawyer knows how to protect the rights of the decedent and their surviving family members.
In the weeks following a death in the workplace it’s important to determine whether the death occurred due to the negligence of another. Employer liability involving wrongful deaths is a time-sensitive matter that must addressed within the statute of limitations in order to provide the maximum amount of compensation for the grieving family. No dollar amount will ever replace a family member. However, compensation for lost wages after a workplace wrongful death can mitigate undue stress.
Lawsuit or workman’s compensation?
In the case of serious bodily injury that does not result in death, a victim has a very difficult decision to make. Does the injured employee retain representation and sue the employer? Do they file for workers’ compensation benefits? A victim cannot do both.
In Florida, if a victim accepts workers’ compensation benefits they forfeit the right to sue the employer for injuries sustained in the accident. However, this also works in reverse. If a victim sues the employer for their injuries, they may not also claim workers’ compensation.
What are survival actions?
In 2018’s Law Resource series related to Wrongful Death Actions we provided our readers with an in-depth look at the differences surrounding the Statute of Limitations in wrongful death versus that of Personal Injury accident litigation. We went on to establish the following:
“[…]Each state differs on their statute of limitations regarding personal injury, but there are inherent differences between the statute of limitations surrounding personal injury and the statute of limitations surrounding a wrongful death. The state of Florida has clearly defined their statute of limitations in regard to wrongful death on their website.”
Also included in our first wrongful death series was Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Compensation – Part 2. In the article, we established the following about survival actions:
“[…]Furthermore, an attorney for the family may be able to obtain damages for personal injury as related to the accident that caused the wrongful death. This area of a personal injury attorney’s practice of law is known as pursuing survival actions. In the case of a wrongful death, a personal injury has still been brought upon the deceased as a result of an accident–they may have suffered in terrible pain before they passed away.”
When does a wrongful death case go to trial?
When surviving family choose to pursue damages by bringing litigation against the employer, an experienced lawyer is well prepared for these types of cases. In these instances the court will need to establish the following:
- Did the employee die because of the defendant’s negligent behavior at the workplace?
- Did the defendant knowingly cause pain and suffering to the employee before their passing?
- Had the employee not passed away, would he or she have had grounds for a lawsuit in regards to the accident?
These questions, from the plaintiff’s perspective, would be the basis of the lawsuit they are bringing against the defendant. A Personal Injury lawyer who has handled these cases for clients in the past will have the most experience in the “discovery rule”. Only an experienced lawyer will be able to advise the family on this very time sensitive situation.
Important to remember: The Statute of Limitations clock begins ticking down when the deceased’s family discovers through the reasonable due diligence of a Personal Injury lawyer, the cause of the wrongful death. In the context of this article, this would mean the lawyer must establish how death occurred in the workplace in a reasonable timeframe.