When tragedy strikes, workers can lose their lives. In many cases, deadly work accidents are the fault of the companies that employ the workers or the accident is caused by some other third party that can be held liable for the accident.
Getting compensation for a loved one’s death in a workplace accident is often difficult, and you should seek out the help of an experienced attorney. Our lawyers can help you find avenues to file a lawsuit to get the full damages you deserve for your loved one’s death, but we can also help with any Workers’ Compensation claims that might arise, helping you navigate both the court and insurance systems in Pennsylvania.
For a free review of your case, call the workplace wrongful death lawyers at Lerner, Steinberg & Associates today at (215) 355-6400.
Who Can Sue for a Deadly Workplace Accident in Philadelphia?
Under Pennsylvania law, the family of a deceased accident victim can often sue for wrongful death. In fact, these cases are usually divided into two separate causes of action and brought together as one case: a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action.
A wrongful death suit is brought to recover hospital bills and other healthcare expenses, funeral expenses, and other expenses related to the death and end-of-life care. You can also claim damages for things like lost wages and other harms the family faces on account of the victim’s death.
This case is filed by the deceased victim’s spouse, their children, or their parents. If there is no one who can file, then the personal representative – usually named in their will or appointed by a court – files instead. These damages are paid to the spouse, children, and parents under Pennsylvania’s rules for distribution of the estate without a will (even if the deceased had a will).
A survival action allows the family of the deceased to continue on with a lawsuit the victim would have been able to file. This often allows them to claim additional damages on the deceased’s behalf, such as pain and suffering and other damages the victim faced before death.
When Can You Sue for a Workplace Wrongful Death Case in Philadelphia?
While the rules above detail who can sue, they do not go into when lawsuits are actually permitted. Generally, Workers’ Compensation rules in Pennsylvania bar workers from suing their employers for injuries, and this extends to wrongful death cases as well, most times. However, there are a few exceptions that allow wrongful death cases to be filed against an employer, and cases can be filed against other parties instead. In any case, however, you must be able to prove fault before your case can proceed.
A lawsuit for wrongful death cannot proceed unless you make out a “prima facie” case that the defendant is indeed at fault for the death and that they committed some type of negligence. Some workplace accidents are pure accidents in which no one is actually to blame. In these cases, no lawsuit would be able to proceed, and our attorneys can help you file for Workers’ Compensation benefits – which require no finding of fault. In other cases, the accident might have actually been the victim’s fault, and there would be no one to sue – so Workers’ Compensation will again be the most likely route to compensation.
If there is an at-fault party, our attorneys can research what happened and seek to hold them accountable.
Exceptions to Sue an Employer
If the at-fault party is your deceased family member’s employer, we might not be able to file a lawsuit against them. However, there are some exceptions to this rule that would allow a lawsuit to proceed, such as when the injuries were intentional or if the employer failed to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance.
Independent contractors are not “employees” under these rules, and they might not be covered by Workers’ Compensation. That means that they do not face the same restrictions on lawsuits and are allowed to file a lawsuit against the parties that hired them if those parties were at fault. In the case of a wrongful death, you could be entitled to sue your loved one’s boss if they worked as a properly classified independent contractor.
Suing Third Parties
If the accident was caused by someone outside the victim’s workplace, you are usually allowed to sue them for the accident and resulting death. This is common in workplace accidents such as car crashes involving roadside crews, accidents caused by defective safety gear, and power tool malfunctions.
Common targets of these lawsuits include customers, clients, vendors, and other contractors, as well as manufacturers of dangerous and defective equipment.
Steps to Take After a Loved One is Killed at Work in Philadelphia
The aftermath of a loved one’s death is one of the hardest periods you will ever face. Making funeral arrangements and continuing with day-to-day activities can be difficult, especially if the deceased loved one was a parent or spouse that provided economic support for your family. In all of that chaos, the following steps will be vital in getting you the compensation you need for your loved one’s death.
First, you should call a lawyer for help determining whether a Workers’ Compensation claim or a lawsuit is the best path to recovery. Our attorneys can, at that point, talk you through any further issues and questions about what to do next.
Second, collect all medical records and other paperwork related to the accident, the victim’s treatment, and their death itself. You should also get together any wills or life insurance policies that might be relevant.
Third, collect any other evidence and records you can. You might not have access to any records or logs at your loved one’s workplace, and you might need the help of our attorneys to send demand letters and allow further investigation of the accident that killed them. Otherwise, anything else you can collect, you should collect.
Next, you should file your claim – which our attorneys can help you with. This will open access to additional damages through discovery as well as settlement negotiations with the defendant.
Call Our Philadelphia Workplace Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
If a loved one was killed at work, call (215) 355-6400 for a free case review with Lerner, Steinberg & Associates’ Philadelphia workplace wrongful death attorneys.