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What to Do if a Loved One Died Working on a Construction Site

— September 15, 2021

Losing a loved family member in a construction accident is a horrible experience. It could also have far-reaching impacts on your family’s financial wellbeing.

If you lost a loved one in a fatal construction accident, your family would experience grief and anger. In addition to losing a loved family member, you might have lost a valuable source of income. In the days immediately following the accident, such thoughts could not be further from your mind. However, if you want to ensure your family’s legal rights are protected and you receive the full compensation you and your family are due, it is important to act quickly.

Steps to Take After a Deadly Construction Accident

When a loved one dies in a construction accident, there are some steps your family should take to ensure your rights are protected.

Inform Your Loved One’s Employer

The first thing you need to do is make sure that your loved one’s employer is aware of their death. You should prepare a written statement that describes the incident, including the date and time of the accident. Be sure to thoroughly describe what occurred. Also, include the date and time of the death if your family member was not immediately killed. You might be required to complete paperwork to preserve your claim through the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. If it was a work-related accident, you probably qualify for death benefits and other compensation.

Preserve Evidence

Unfortunately, you might have to fight for the compensation your family deserves. It is not prudent to assume that an insurance company or employer will do the right thing. Therefore, it is crucial to preserve any evidence related to the accident and death. Gather copies of medical documentation, hospital records, the death certificate, and the accident or incident report. You should also collect the names and contact information of any co-workers who witnessed the incident. Your evidence and medical records should be kept in a safe place.

Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

You should consult with a qualified wrongful death attorney familiar with construction accidents. An experienced lawyer will assist you in establishing your family’s right to compensation, handle negotiations with insurance companies, and, potentially, build a wrongful death case for trial. Hiring a competent attorney experienced in wrongful death cases allows you to focus on caring for yourself and your family.

Workers’ Compensation Claim or Workers’ Death Lawsuit

Many work-related injuries and deaths are covered under your state’s workers’ compensation laws. These laws are enacted to provide workers and their families a streamlined procedure to obtain benefits to cover medical expenses and partial income loss due to a workplace accident. The advantage of workers’ compensation is that an injured employee is not required to prove negligence to receive compensation. Furthermore, the financial benefits are paid relatively quickly. If someone files a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, it could take years before they receive any compensation. It’s important to think about your case early to avoid going past the statute of limitations on wrongful death cases.

There are limits to the compensation provided through workers’ compensation benefits. Depending on your jurisdiction, the total amount of compensation could be capped. Additionally, grieving families are often limited to recovering medical expenses and a percentage of their loved one’s income. They are not usually entitled to compensation for their intangible harm, such as emotional pain or loss of companionship.

In many cases, an employee or their family is prohibited from filing a lawsuit against the employer under workers’ compensation laws. However, if the work-related death was caused by a third party, such as a contractor or an equipment manufacturer, the surviving family members could have the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. Under these circumstances, the lawsuit is not against the employer.

To prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members will have to establish two important elements. First, that their loved one was killed due to another party’s negligence. For example, a scaffolding contractor that failed to secure proper safety precautions could be held liable for your loved one’s death. Next, the family members will have to demonstrate that they suffered harm because of the death of their loved one. Harm in a wrongful death case includes loss of income, medical expenses, emotional distress, and loss of partnership. One of the significant differences between wrongful death lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims is the ability to seek compensation for these intangible damages.

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One primary reason to file a wrongful death lawsuit is the potential for greater compensation. The surviving family members are permitted to recover intangible damages in addition to the compensation provided through workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, the family could be award significantly more in lost income, depending on the deceased’s age at the time of death.

There are two disadvantages of a wrongful death lawsuit. First, as with nearly every legal claim, the outcome is not guaranteed. Family members have the burden of proof and will need an experienced attorney representing their interests. The second is that a lawsuit could take many months or years before a final verdict is rendered. Fortunately, surviving family members are not precluded from filing a workers’ compensation claim alongside a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Steps You Take After Losing a Loved One are Critical

Losing a loved family member in a construction accident is a horrible experience. It could also have far-reaching impacts on your family’s financial wellbeing. This is why it is important to take the proper steps after a fatal accident. No matter what occurred, your first course of action should be seeking legal representation for construction accidents.

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