Legal Rights When a Workplace Fatality Occurs

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Unfortunately workplace accidents occur more frequently than people realize. In 2014, 4,405 workers were killed by on the job events, equaling out to over 12 deaths each day. Surprisingly this is the lowest number of deaths reported since the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration division; (OSHA) began compiling their fatal injury census back in 1992.

Like most government agencies these days OSHA is spread thin. They try to oversee the safety of over 130 million workers with just 100 offices and 2,200 compliance inspectors. Because OSHA is both financially and manpower challenged, many of the over 8 million worksites throughout America have in-house safety inspectors trained in OSHA approved safety requirements. But as we all know, even a company with the best of intentions, one which tries to provide a safe workplace environment, can have things fall through the cracks. Corners get cut, scheduled safety training classes get put on the back burner and before you know it a serious accident has occurred. While in all fairness, a business can do everything exactly by the book, but it is impossible to completely eliminate all the risks.

A single workplace accident not resulting in death can still financially devastate a family. Then when the primary breadwinner is killed, the resulting financial burden is only trumped by the emotional toil felt by the family. Not all workplace deaths are sudden. In many cases a debilitating workplace injury or occupational disease, one which causes pain, suffering and financial hardship over many years, can ultimately result in the employee’s death. Obtaining medical treatment and financial compensation for an occupational disease is generally always a difficult battle and one where a proven workers’ compensation attorney is required.

The legal experts at Dan Pruitt Law Firm understand the death of a loved one due to a workplace accident is an emotional and trying time. We want you to focus on healing; not get bogged down in lengthy and time-consuming paperwork, emails and telephone calls. South Carolina law is very clear on what a workplace death claim is worth: 500 weeks of compensation, determined by what the deceased was earning at the time of death, not to exceed 100 percent of the current state’s average weekly wage.

While the law seems straightforward, many times the employer and their insurer will dispute death benefit claims, citing extenuating circumstances. Again, while a family is still grieving the loss of a husband, wife, son or daughter, worried about paying funeral expenses and concerned about the family’s financial future, the last thing they should have to deal with is an uncooperative employer and their insurance company.

Some of the most common reasons for denying legitimate workers’ compensation death benefits include:

  • Concerns surrounding the accident or disease. Often the employer will say the employee was at fault, was drunk or under the influence of drugs when the event occurred.
  • They will contend family members filing the claim are not authorized. This is especially frequent in the case of a common-law spouse, minor children or due to no surviving relations, the executor of the estate.

Depending on circumstances, third-party lawsuits may need to be brought against companies and individuals other than the employer. For example, if your loved one’s death was the result of faulty equipment, then wrongful death damages through a third-party lawsuit may be a viable legal option.

If your loved one has died due to a work related accident, injury or disease, please reach out to us today for a no-obligation complementary consultation.

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