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Fatal Workplace Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Claims

Wrongful Death Attorney for Work Injury Claims

Every year, thousands of workers die as a result of job-related injuries in the United States. To be sure, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the year 2014 alone, there were 4,679 workplace fatalities, a more than 100-death increase from the previous year.

A workplace injury that results in death can be devastating for surviving family members; not only have they just lost their loved one – perhaps a parent or spouse – but they have also lost an income earner, too. The emotional loss combined with the financial worry that is created by a family member’s death can be extremely difficult to cope with.

In Kentucky, as well as other states in the nation, workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide compensation for surviving family members with deaths in the workplace occur. The following reviews the specifics of Kentucky’s workers’ compensation claims, as well as survivors’ options for filing third party liability claims for compensation.

Workers’ Compensation Claim in Kentucky and Death Benefits

Losing an income earner can be financially straining for a family. When a the death of a person would not have occurred but for an on-the-job injury, the deceased’s surviving family members may be entitled to benefits under the workers’ compensation system.

The Kentucky Guidebook to Workers’ Compensation, published by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims, explains that if an employee dies as a result of a work-related injury, a lump sum payment will be made to the deceased employee’s estate. In addition to a lump sum payment, burial and funeral expenses are also covered under workers’ compensation insurance, as are income benefits to the surviving spouse and any dependents.

The amount of lump-sum payment that the employee’s estate will receive changes on a yearly basis. In 2011, the lump sum payment (which is payable if death occurs within four years of an employee’s job-related injury) was $70,916.46.

Dependents are entitled to income benefits up until the age of 18 years old. In some cases, benefits will continue for a child who is over the age of 18 if the dependent is still in school or is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.

If any medical expenses were accumulated by the injured worker prior to their death (due to injuries directly related to the workplace accident), workers’ compensation insurance is designed to pay for all necessary and reasonable medical expenses as well.

Is Workers’ Compensation Insurance Enough?

As stated above, workers’ compensation insurance is designed to help workers or/and their family members survive financially in the event that a workplace accident occurs and an employee suffers injuries that leave them unable to work, incurs large medical bills, experiences a loss of income, or dies. However, workers’ compensation benefits are purely economic, meaning that they only compensate individuals for their financial losses related to the injury – i.e. medical expenses, lost wages, etc.

In order to recover compensation for noneconomic losses – like loss of parenting, loss of guidance, loss of consortium, physical pain, mental anguish, etc. – a person must file a civil lawsuit. However, civil lawsuits against an employer in order to recover compensation for damages related to a workplace accident are prohibited by nature of the workers’ compensation system (an employer is protected from liability in exchange for no-fault benefits for the worker).

Surviving families members can, however, filing a third party liability suit to recover economic and noneconomic damages against a negligent party other than the employer, such as an employee at another company, the manufacturer of a dangerous product, or an irresponsible property owner.

Consider this situation: A worker in an industrial plant is exposed to asbestos as a result of their job every single day for a period of 15 years. The worker develops mesothelioma and, as a result of the disease, dies. While the worker’s family cannot sue the company with which the worker was employed, they can sue the manufacturer of the asbestos-containing product (i.e. a third party gasket maker).

What Do I Have to Prove in a Workers’ Compensation or Third Party Liability Claim?

As stated above, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. In other words, this means that a worker – or an employee’s surviving family member(s) – does not need to prove that the employer did anything wrong; they merely need to establish that an on-the-job accident/injury occurred, and that the accident/injury resulted in losses.

In a third party liability claim, however, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant did something that was outside of the scope of what is considered to be reasonable. For example, manufacturing an asbestos-containing product without warning of the effects of being exposed to asbestos, could be considered “unreasonable.” This is known as proving negligence.

In addition to proving negligence, the plaintiff must prove that damages would not have been sustained but for the act of negligence – this is known as causation. Financially, the plaintiff must prove that actual damages were suffered, such as psychological injury, medical bills, lost wages, etc.

How an Experienced Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help

 Workplace injuries and deaths in the workplace are more common than anyone would like to think. And while the process of recovering compensation after losing a loved one should be straightforward, oftentimes, it is not. If you have lost your loved one in a workplace accident in Lexington or surrounding areas, our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys want to help you recover the financial compensation you need.

We can guide you in filing your workers’ compensation claim, and in exploring the option of a third party liability claim. If we believe that filing a third party claim makes sense, we will work hard to prove negligence, causation, and damages to improve your suit’s chances of success.

We understand how traumatic a fatal workplace injury is. To meet with a legal team who will support you during this challenging time, contact the Frank Jenkins Law Office today for a free consultation.