Wrongful Death Construction Accidents
Many construction jobs are inherently dangerous. That does not mean workers have to accept unsafe working conditions. Federal law requires employers to provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards – and instills workers with the right to report such perils without fear of retaliation.
Workers killed in Florida construction accidents may have numerous legal avenues to explore for recovery of damages. Our construction accident wrongful death attorneys in Fort Lauderdale understand that no amount of money is going to bring back the person you lost. However, there are several goals that litigation can achieve. They are:
- Recovery of damages for medical bills, funeral expenses and lost wages incurred, to help your family regain financial stability;
- Accountability for those companies and individuals who were negligent, either in work safety practices or product design/ manufacturing;
- Awareness of serious workplace hazards in certain occupations, reducing the likelihood of a similar tragedy in the future.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 20 percent of all workplace deaths occur on construction sites. Those in the trades (i.e., carpenters, laborers, electricians, painters, roofers, etc.) are the most at-risk.
Surviving family members need to recognize they are likely entitled to two forms of financial recovery:
- Workers’ compensation death benefits;
- Wrongful death settlement/ verdict (third-party negligence lawsuit).
There are distinct differences between these, one can be affected by the other and not all survivors will be able to collect both. Having an experienced wrongful death attorney at The Ansara Law Firm to help you navigate this process is imperative.Construction Industry Perils
Most fatal construction accidents can be traced to unsafe working conditions, poor training, failure to follow workplace safety standards, unsafe equipment or some combination of these. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces workplace safety standards, generally holds the primary contractor on site accountable for maintaining a safe worksite. However, all subcontractors and workers must take these risks seriously too.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more construction workers died in the course and scope of employment than those in any other industry. However, the fatal work injury rate (which factors in the number of workers in each industry) ranked the industry No. 3, behind agriculture and transportation.
The primary sources of fatal injuries for construction laborers were:
- Slips, trips and falls (especially falls from roofs and ladders),
- Transportation incidents;
- Contacts with objects or equipment.
The BLS reports that of those construction workers fatally injured, nearly half were contracted workers. This presents some unique legal challenges.Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits After Fatal Construction Accident in Florida
The first type of financial recovery for workers’ surviving family members is workers’ compensation death benefits. Most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. This is a no-fault system of recovery, meaning you don’t need to prove the employer was negligent (or that the employee was not). The system is intended to be a fast way for workers and surviving family members to obtain compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses and a portion of lost wages. However, many employers will fight back on this, which is why you need a lawyer.
Workers’ compensation death benefits can be key to keeping you afloat financially. Here’s what’s at stake, per F.S. 440.16:
- Actual funeral expenses up to $7,500;
- Medical expenses incurred prior to death;
- 66.67 percent of decedent’s average weekly wages to dependents (up to $150,000 total for all);
- An additional 16 2/3 to spouse on account of each child;
- 33 1/3 percent of average week to children (where there is no surviving spouse);
- 25 percent to each parent during continuance of dependency;
- 15 percent for brothers, sisters and grandchildren;
- Payment of postsecondary fees for instruction/ career center/ community college for up to 80 semester hours for 7 years after decedent’s death (satisfactory academic progress is required).
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s important to note there are a lot of reasons for surviving family members to apply for these benefits. Even if the employer/ insurer offers a settlement, be sure to have that agreement reviewed by an experienced attorney.
It’s also important to explore whether a wrongful death lawsuit is appropriate because workers’ compensation will not cover damages for full wage losses, pain and suffering and loss of consortium suffered by a spouse.Construction Accident Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Employers (and usually co-workers) are immune from liability for work accidents, unless they were grossly negligent or survivors can prove the company intentionally put workers in harm’s way. But that immunity does not extend to others on the job site, such as:
- Property owners;
- Product manufacturers;
- Careless drivers;
- Engineers and architects;
- Municipal entities.
In general, these claims must be filed within two years, per the wrongful death statute of limitations in Florida. That doesn’t mean you should wait until the last minute to file.
Understand also that you cannot receive double benefits. For instance if you recover lost wages from decedent’s workers’ compensation insurer, that insurer can impose a lien on the compensation you receive from a negligent third-party. Typically though, you can obtain more from a third-party lawsuit, which is why it’s still beneficial to pursue such claims.
If your loved one was killed in a construction accident in Fort Lauderdale, contact the wrongful death attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.