When a Worker Dies in a Workplace Accident, Is It a Workers’ Compensation or Wrongful Death Claim?

February 28, 2017

When an employee dies in a workplace accident, the surviving family members often feel devastated by the shock of having lost a loved one so unexpectedly. When the surviving family members were dependent on the worker’s salary for financial support, the worker’s spouse or dependent children can file a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits. Pennsylvania workers’ compensation program provides a death benefit that covers funeral expenses and a weekly benefit payment and burial expenses when a worker dies from a work injury or an occupational disease. The amount of compensation they might receive is based on calculations outlined in the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation statute.

But what happens when the employee’s death is clearly the result of negligence or recklessness on the part of the employer? By law employees are generally prohibited from suing their employers after a workplace accident. Workers’ compensation is designed to be a no-fault system which allows injured or sick workers to get compensation for a workplace injury without the need to hire attorneys and file lawsuits. If a worker’s death is caused by the employer’s gross negligence or misconduct, or the fault can be placed with a third party, the employee’s dependents might be able to file a wrongful death claim.

If some or all of the fault for the death of the employee can be placed on a third party such as the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment, the reckless driver that caused the crash, the negligent security on a client site, etc., a skilled Philadelphia personal injury attorney may be able to recover compensation on their client’s behalf. Often, the proceeds of a successful wrongful death claim will exceed what the family might receive from the workers’ compensation death benefit. The employer’s insurer will likely place a lien on the proceeds of the lawsuit to recover what they paid out on the wrongful death claim, but the family members will be able to keep the remaining balance.

In cases where the family files a wrongful death claim which is denied by the employer, they are then free to file a wrongful death lawsuit based on the loss the surviving family members have experienced as a result of the decedent’s death. The spouse and children of the deceased may receive compensation for things such as final medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of consortium and companionship and pain and suffering.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be a painful and confusing experience. The compassionate workers’ compensation attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates can help you and your family understand your legal rights and decide what kind of compensation to pursue in the event of the death of a loved one in a workplace accident.

When a worker perishes in a workplace accident, or from an occupational disease, a compassionate, experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer from Larry Pitt & Associates can represent your interests and make sure that you get the compensation you are entitled to. You are welcome call 888.PITT.LAW, or fill out our contact form. We have several offices to serve our clients throughout Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties. We are here to help you.