Workplace accidents occur daily, with certain professions, like construction, posing higher risks. Tragically, these accidents can sometimes result in the loss of a dedicated worker's life. While financial compensation cannot replace a lost family member, comprehending the differences between workers' compensation death benefits and wrongful death lawsuits is crucial for ensuring your family's financial stability.

In Pennsylvania, the workers' compensation system extends death benefits to the spouses, children, and other qualified dependents of employees who have died while at work. These benefits often serve as vital financial support for grieving families, particularly if the deceased was the main provider of income.

What happens, though, if an employee's death on the job stems from a third party's negligence? In such instances, can the surviving relatives pursue a wrongful death claim? And how do workers' compensation death benefits differ from a wrongful death lawsuit? The forthcoming article will address these questions.

It's important to note that losing your spouse to a workplace incident entitles you, at the very least, to workers' compensation death benefits. Depending on the exact circumstances surrounding your loved one's death, you might also have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit for additional compensation.

A Pennsylvania worker's compensation attorney can guide you through the benefits you qualify for and assist in securing the most advantageous settlement. Although no amount of money can return your loved one, it can provide financial relief during tough times. After a heartbreaking loss, the last thing a family should worry about is financial strain.

In Pennsylvania, What Is the Primary Distinction Between Filing for Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits and Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Workers' compensation is designed to offer financial support to employees who suffer injuries or fatalities while on the job, including support for their dependents. A lesser-known aspect of workers' compensation is its role in shielding employers from lawsuits for workplace injuries or fatalities, even if they were negligent or created unsafe working conditions.

This suggests that employers are still subject to workers' compensation laws even if they disobey safety regulations set by organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

However, if a third party, such as a contractor, subcontractor, or equipment manufacturer, is responsible for the workplace death, the deceased's family may have grounds to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against that third party, not the employer.

For a wrongful death lawsuit to proceed, the family members must demonstrate that their loved one's death was due to another's negligence (like that of a negligent equipment manufacturer) and that the death has caused them significant harm. This harm could be financial, such as lost income or potential earnings, or non-financial, like the loss of companionship, diminished life quality, or emotional distress.

One of the distinguishing factors of a wrongful death claim is its allowance for compensation for these non-financial losses, a benefit not offered by Pennsylvania workers' compensation.

PA Workers' Compensation Death Benefit Requirements

Eligibility to file a claim for death benefits hinges on the cause of death; the individual must have passed away while fulfilling their job responsibilities or due to conditions linked to their employment. To qualify for death benefits through workers' compensation in Pennsylvania for the loss of your loved one, certain criteria must be met.

Eligible recipients of workers' compensation death benefits include:

  • The deceased's spouse
  • The deceased's child, if they are physically or mentally incapacitated
  • The deceased's parent, if dependent on the deceased for financial support
  • The deceased's sibling who is either younger than 18 or a student younger than 23

Disabled siblings of the deceased can qualify for benefits regardless of their age.

If you are 18 years old and a child of the deceased, you qualify.

For students, eligibility for benefits extends until the age of 23.

Individuals who satisfy any of these conditions may receive up to $7,000 to cover funeral and burial expenses.

How Are Death Benefits From Workers’ Compensation Determined in Pennsylvania?

The amount of ongoing benefits received under Pennsylvania workers' compensation due to a death varies based on the recipient's relationship to the deceased. For a spouse without children, the benefit is 51% of the deceased's weekly earnings. This percentage increases to 60% if there is one child and to 66 2/3% for families with two or more children. In situations where the deceased's spouse and children have different guardians, the benefits are divided equally among them. Guardians of a deceased worker's child are entitled to 32% of the weekly wages, with an additional 10% for each extra child, up to a maximum of five children.

For families with six or more children, the benefit is capped at 66 2/3% of the deceased's wages. If the deceased did not leave a spouse or children, dependent parents may receive a portion of the wages. Parents who partially depended on the deceased for financial support are entitled to 32% of the earnings, while those who were fully dependent can receive 52%.

In cases where there are no surviving parents or children, financially dependent siblings of the deceased are eligible for 22% of the weekly wages. The maximum benefit rate for all wage benefits is set at $1,025 per week.

By Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in PA, What Compensation Can I Recover?

Family members who have lost a loved one may find that pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit offers significantly greater compensation than workers' compensation benefits. The scope of wrongful death compensation can cover:

  • Medical costs, injury-related expenses, and costs leading up to the death that both the deceased and their family incurred from the time of the negligent act
  • Expenses for funeral and burial
  • The earnings the deceased would have likely made up until their expected retirement
  • The value of services, care, support, and other contributions the deceased would have provided
  • Additional damages, which may include compensation for pain and suffering

In Pennsylvania, there is a two-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, starting from the death date of the individual. (It's important to note that wrongful death claims are not exclusively for incidents stemming from workplace negligence.)

Advantages and Disadvantages of Death Benefits vs. Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Choosing between filing for death benefits and a wrongful death lawsuit comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Death Benefits through Workers’ Compensation:

  • Advantage: The need to prove negligence on the part of the deceased is not necessary for eligibility; the process to receive benefits is straightforward upon filing a claim.
  • Disadvantage: Opting for this route means relinquishing the right to sue the employer for further damages, and compensation does not cover non-economic damages such as loss of companionship or diminished quality of life.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit:

  • Advantage: This option offers the possibility of a more substantial compensation package, which can include payment for non-economic damages. Punitive damages awarded in these cases can also serve as a deterrent against future negligent actions, with no caps on damages.
  • Disadvantage: The downside is that these lawsuits can require a significant amount of time to resolve, potentially stretching out for months or years.

Brandon J. Broderick Is Available 24/7 To Help You With Your Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Wrongful Death Claim

If a workplace accident or injury has resulted in the loss of a loved one, the skilled workers' compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Brandon J. Broderick are here to ensure you maximize your workers' compensation benefits and determine if pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit is the right step.

Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, has a long history of effectively advocating for our clients, even in seemingly impossible situations. Our commitment to providing exceptional client service and a compassionate, transparent approach has earned us a strong reputation in Pennsylvania as one of the top personal injury law firms. We commit to protecting your interests, allowing you to concentrate on what's most important: your family.

Our team has supported individuals in overcoming the aftermath of tragic incidents stemming from others' negligence. Operating on a contingency fee basis, we assure you that you pay no upfront fees, and our compensation is solely based on successful outcomes. Many clients find peace of mind after their initial call to us.

Contact us today for a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.

Posted by: Brandon J. Bro…
Date: Mon, 05/20/2024 - 20:15

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