Filing for Wrongful Death Following a Construction Accident

Wrongful Death Lawyers
Wrongful Death Lawsuit

OSHA recently found that over 18% of the workplace accidents occurring in the US take place in construction. The top four accident causes the amount to 57% of the deaths that happen in this specific industry, and are categorized as “the fatal four”. These comprise falls, getting struck by objects, electrocutions, and getting caught in between objects.

In most cases when a loved one passes this way, bereaved family members generally have a lawsuit furthest from their minds, mainly because of the grief they sustain at the time. It is often only in the subsequent weeks and months that they turn to seeking a legal remedy to the situation, in case they harbor the belief that the death was caused by the negligence on the employer’s part.

Survivor and Wrongful Death Actions

Two different lawsuits can be filed by the loved ones of a construction worker who lost his or her life as the result of an accident. This comprises a survivor action and a wrongful death action. Most of the time, the family of the deceased worker would file both claims as part of the same case. Each claim differs from the other on the basis of the available damages.

Survivor Actions

Whenever the family of a deceased worker files a survivor claim, they are legally seen to be making the following arguments.

  • The death of the worker occurred because of negligence on the defendant’s part.
  • To the deceased, this negligence was the cause of pain and suffering before the moment of their death.
  • Had the worker survived, they would have remained able to file a case against the defendant and win compensation in court, or from a settlement.
  • The defendant is still liable for having caused pain and suffering, and should not be let off the hook for the simple reason that the worker died.
  • Because of this, the defendant, having caused pain and suffering, should pay damages to the estate of the deceased.

A survivor claim can only be filed after someone has passed away. The logic behind such a claim is that this person had a right to filing a lawsuit and that this right should be exercised on their behalf after their death. The right to take the matter to court “survives” them, and their estate is thus able to try and recover damages for the worker’s pain and suffering prior to death.

Wrongful Death Actions

Whenever the family of a deceased worker files a wrongful death lawsuit, they are legally seen to be making the following arguments.

  • The death of the worker occurred because of negligence on the defendant’s part.
  • The worker left behind very close members of family.
  • These family members sustained losses from the death of that person.
  • That means the defendant, who is responsible for the death, is also liable to compensate the deceased’s family for the losses which they sustained.

When bringing a wrongful death action, a deceased worker’s family is not suing on the former’s behalf or for the harms that they were caused. The harm that they are suing over pertains to their own losses following the death, which happens to be that of a loved one. Losses incurred this way and provable in court include the following.

  • that of quality of life,
  • that of emotional support and of love, and
  • that of financial support.

Workers’ Compensation Laws

Under worker’s compensations laws, injured workers are prevented from suing their companies in standard courts. One other way these rules allow them to be compensated is from an insurance fund into which most employers are obligated to pay for as long as they function as a company. The environment in which a worker’s compensation claim gets made is no-fault, which means the worker is not required to establish that someone was negligent. Still, a standard lawsuit would net the worker a higher amount of compensation by comparison.

In some states, the courts hold that after the death of an employee, lawsuits resulting from that are not subject to worker’s compensation laws. It is these states in which the estate of the deceased may file a lawsuit in the state court, seeking damages in the actions detailed above. In other states, worker’s compensation rules do apply, limiting the recoveries that can be made by survivors of the deceased.

If a family finds itself in the latter scenario, then it could consider suing some party other than the employer of the deceased. If, for instance, the worker was a roofer and he died falling off the roof during a home renovation, the general contractor hiring the roofing company would not be protected by workers’ compensation rules in some states. To know more about this, the family should get in touch with a competent firm of wrongful death lawyers.

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