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Wrongful Death Claims Following Workplace Accidents

Losing a loved one is always painful, but it can be especially trying if their death was easily preventable. Although money is rarely the first thing on anyone's mind following a tragic workplace accident, the reality is that the loss of a loved one often leads to financial loss, as well. When a close family member dies, you lose the monetary support that their income provided along with their close emotional support and love. These are real, tangible damages that your family may recover if another party's negligence caused your loved one's death.

Wrongful death claims are the primary mechanism used to recover damages of this type.

Eligibility to File a Claim

Surprisingly, most states allow for a broad range of plaintiffs in wrongful death cases. In all cases, immediate family members will always be eligible to file wrongful death claims. In addition to close family members, however, many states also provide options for others who may have been financially impacted by the decedent's passing to file claims of their own. Eligibility varies from state to state,  but this category may include everyone from romantic partners to close business associates.

Additionally, wrongful death claims must prove that the defendant's negligence was responsible for the decedent's death. Since the civil court system is responsible for wrongful death cases, it is not necessary to prove negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the court will evaluate the claim based on the "preponderance of the evidence." In simple terms, this means that it must be more likely than not that the defendant's negligence was a direct cause or contributing factor to the death in question.

Workers' Compensation, Fault, and Liable Parties

While liability is often straightforward in wrongful death cases, workers' compensation adds complications for workplace deaths. In particular, workers' compensation is intended to provide no-fault insurance, and workers' compensation benefits generally prohibit employees from suing their employers. For survivors, however, these rules can vary dramatically. In general, accepting survivors' benefits through workers' compensation insurance waives you of your right to pursue a wrongful death case against the decedent's employer.

If you wish to recover damages without opting out of the survivors' benefits offered by workers' compensation, then you may still have options. The decedent's employer is often the responsible party that is most immediately apparent, but the negligence of other parties may have contributed. Faulty equipment that contributed to the accident, for example, may expose the equipment manufacturer to some liability. The web of liability in work-related death cases can often be complicated, but a skilled attorney can help you to untangle it and identify those parties who share responsibility for the death.

Getting Started With Your Claim

The ideal way to get started with any claim is to consult with a wrongful death attorney that has experience in work-related accidents. Discussing your case with an attorney will help you to understand if you are eligible to file a claim and the likelihood that your claim will succeed. More importantly, an experienced attorney can begin to identify those parties responsible for the accident.  

For more information, contact a wrongful death lawyer.