Heartbreaking. That is the word that comes to my mind each and every time a loved one is lost. While it is a difficult time to consider how and why a work-related death occurred, it is important to have the cause of death investigated as soon as possible. There is often more than one area of law involved, and there could be short time periods to file and protect those workers compensation claims. Here are some general considerations you should know:
A Specific Injury
A specific injury is an injury that occurred at a specific time and place. However, workers compensation generally does not cover:
- Self-inflicted injuries
- Injuries caused by fighting or horseplay
- Injuries sustained while committing a crime
- Injuries sustained while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Injuries sustained while violating company policies
But, there are exceptions. If, for example, a brewery employer contributed to a worker’s alcoholism by offering unlimited free beer to employees during breaks and the employee sustained a fatal injury, then the employee’s family is eligible to receive workers compensation death benefits. These benefits are generally limited to a spouse, children and other family members who lived with and depended on the employee for financial support.
As a workers compensation attorney practicing in Orange County, CA, Thomas F. Martin, PLC has represented many families who have lost a loved one due to an accident while working. Often, the claims adjuster will calculate the “death benefit” without investigation of the additional benefits that may be owed. For example, burial expenses may be owed, and the workers compensation death benefit may increase due to the number of dependents. Also, depending on how the injury occurred, the employer may owe an additional 50% of the benefits for its misconduct.
Also – and importantly – if a company other than the employer also contributed to the accident, there may be additional claims that the family can make in civil court.
Death Caused by Poor Workplace Conditions
The workplace can be a stressful and unhealthy place. Stanford Professor Jefrey Pfeffer and his colleagues reviewed 228 studies to explore the following ten common sources of workplace stress:
- Lack of health insurance
- Exposure to shift work
- Long hours/overtime
- Job insecurity
- Work-family conflict
- Low job control
- High job demands
- Low social support at work
- Organizational injustice
- Low social support
According to Pfeiffer, “There are basically 120,000 excess deaths per year attributed to these ten workplace conditions and they cause approximately $190 billion in incremental health care costs. That would make the workplace the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. — higher than Alzheimer’s, higher than kidney disease.”
His research also found that long working hours increased mortality by almost 20%! The top stressors affecting mortality include secondhand smoke exposure, unemployment, low job control, lack of health insurance, work/family conflict, and long work hours/overtime.
It’s important for employees and their families to be aware of these stressors and understand how they can contribute to a workplace fatality and make a family eligible to receive workers compensation death benefits.
Death Caused By A Work-Related Injury Or Condition
The top five workplace fatalities occur as a result of:
- Transportation: 40%
- Slips, trips and falls: 17%
- Violence: 16%
- Contact with objects and equipment: 14%
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments: 10%
The top five occupations with the highest number of fatalities:
- Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers
- Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers
- Grounds maintenance workers
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Each case is unique, and each case deserves unique analysis. In the many death claims filed on behalf of families, none of them have been even remotely similar.
Why Trust Thomas F. Martin, PLC to Represent You
Thomas F. Martin has over 25 years of experience as a workers compensation attorney practicing in Orange County, CA. Clients trust him to fight for their rights and see that justice is done.
If you have questions about the workers compensation death benefit owed, or suspect that work may have played a role in the death of a loved one, please feel free to give us a call.
The consultation is always free.