Wrongful Death on the Job

Hundreds of Florida work-related deaths are reported each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These incidents disproportionately affect men, with major cited causes including crashes, falls, exposure to harmful substances, violence and being struck by objects. Those in the industries of construction, transportation and maintenance are at especially high risk.

As our Fort Lauderdale wrongful death attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm can explain, the surviving family members of these workers will likely be able to collect workers’ compensation death benefits, as outlined in F.S. 440.16. That will help with funeral expenses, medical bills, lost wages and future educational expenses to get back on your feet. However, it’s often not enough. The most one can receive in wage compensation is $150,000 total. If we divide that by the average U.S. wage (per the BLS) those benefits would only last 3.4 years.

That’s why it’s important for dependents to explore the possibility of a third-party claim. This is very different from a workers’ compensation claim and one can have an impact on the other. We recognize that no amount of money is going to bring your loved one back, but an attorney who can help guide you through this complicated process as this most difficult time will be important to securing your family’s financial future in the months and years to come.

Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and Wrongful Death Claims

Workers’ compensation is available to pretty much anyone who was injured or killed in the course and scope of employment. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to fight for it, but it is structured as a no-fault system, so you do not have to prove the employer or co-workers were negligent. Neither do you (usually) need to show the worker was not at-fault. There might be some exceptions if there is evidence decedent was intoxicated or the injury was intentionally self-inflicted.

The trade-off for this no-fault system is employers are immune from personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.

Sometimes, this can be incredibly frustrating because the company clearly was at-fault, and possibly even in flagrant violation of federal, state or industry safety regulations, jeopardizing the worker’s life. Even in these situations, the company is generally protected from litigation, which tends to yield higher compensation.

This immunity, though, does not extend to third parties. Some examples of third-party lawsuits that may arise from a work-related death may include:

  • Contractors. This is especially true if your loved one was a construction worker on a site with numerous subcontractors. The duty of care element may rely heavily on the language of those contracts, but it’s often worth exploring.
  • Property owners. Premises liability claims can be brought against property owners (if different from the employer) in the event a dangerous condition on the property caused or contributed to the injuries resulting in death. There are some stringent requirements and proof burdens for premises liability lawsuits, which can range from things like unaddressed slip-and-fall hazards or negligent security.
  • Product manufacturers. Malfunctioning machines, equipment or vehicles resulting in a fatal workplace accident could be grounds for a product liability lawsuit.
  • Careless drivers. All motorists owe a duty of care to other road users – that includes other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and road construction crews. Failure to use reasonable care can result in a finding of liability. If THAT driver was on-the-job or operating a vehicle that owned to another, those parties may find themselves named as defendants in a vicarious liability claim.
  • Municipal entities. Government agencies can be held liable for negligent employees or departments, whether an errant driver or failure to address a dangerous road condition or something else.

Keep in mind this list isn’t exhaustive. Your wrongful death attorney can help you identify all possible defendants in a case and pursue action against those defendants.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

Florida law allows wrongful death lawsuits to be brought either by survivors or the personal representative of decedent’s estate.

Wrongful death cases are filed by the personal representative of the estate, typically one’s surviving spouse, parent, child or certain other dependents. The estate can recover damages for loss of financial support, funeral expenses and loss of household assistance.

Meanwhile, survival action claims are essentially an extension of an existing injury claim, with damages sought for pain and suffering decedent suffered prior to death – damages he or she would have been able to recover until the time of death. The Florida Wrongful Death Act survival statute allows preservation of claims for damages suffered prior to death.

Determining the best approach following a fatal workplace accident requires consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney in Fort Lauderdale.

If your loved one was killed at work 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.

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