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NYC Fatal Workplace Injury Lawyer
In 2020, there were 59 fatal workplace injuries in New York City. Most commonly, deaths occur because of exposure to harmful substances or environments, followed by falls, trips, and slips—violence by another person or animal and contact with objects or equipment trails behind. Overall the private construction industry has the highest number of workplace fatalities, followed by retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food services.
Losing a loved one because of a workplace accident or succumbing to an occupational illness is emotionally devastating and typically has severe financial ramifications for the survivors. You may feel like your only option is a workers' compensation settlement. However, other parties who may have been involved could be held liable for the death of your loved one in a civil claim. It's important that it isn't just an insurance company doing the investigation. It would be best if you had a fatal workplace injury lawyer working to protect your interests too.
Morgan and Morgan Law Firm can offer you the legal counsel you need to ensure you get the maximum benefits from a workers' compensation claim and investigate to see if there was any negligence from a third party. New York Workers' Compensation Laws prohibit survivors from suing an employer for wrongful death. However, under certain circumstances, these laws can be circumvented.
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What Benefits Are Survivors Entitled to for a Fatal Workplace Injury?
When a loved one dies from a workplace injury or illness, the surviving spouse, children, and other applicable dependents are entitled to weekly cash benefits under New York law. The amount of the benefits is equal to two-thirds of your deceased loved one's average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to the incident. The weekly maximum that can be received, regardless of the number of dependents, varies depending on the date of the accident. As of July 1, 2022, the weekly maximum is $1,125.46.
Suppose there is no spouse, dependent children, or other applicable dependents as defined by law. In that case, the parents of the deceased or the deceased's estate may be entitled to a payment of $50,000.
Survivors are also entitled to the funeral, burial, or memorial expenses they incur, but these expenses are limited to $12,500. Workers' compensation should also cover any medical expenses incurred by your loved one's accident or illness prior to their death. However, the insurer may want to review those bills to make sure the treatment was related to the workplace incident.
Death benefits should continue for the surviving spouse until they remarry or die. In the case of remarriage, the surviving spouse will receive a two-year lump sum payment, and ongoing payments will stop. Minor children, children under 23 and in college, may receive payments until they come of age. The deceased's permanently disabled dependent children may receive benefits at any age.
Why Does the Construction Industry Have So Many Fatal Workplace Injuries?
New York City's private construction industry has more deaths than any other industry, and this follows a nationwide pattern. In fact, construction-related jobs make up one-third of the ten most dangerous jobs in America. But what causes these fatalities? Here is a list of the most common reasons:
Falls - Construction work often takes place at heights. Workers can be killed if a ladder or scaffolding is faulty. Similarly, it's difficult to be aware all the time, and a worker could trip over tools and fall off a roof, causing death.
Workers caught between objects - The nature of construction work often requires the use of heavy machinery, which can be dangerous if the operator doesn't see nearby coworkers or if the machinery is faulty and injures the operator.
Workers struck by objects - The construction worksite may have different levels making falling objects a hazard. Tools, construction materials, and debris could hit a worker below and cause catastrophic injuries. Likewise, a worker could get struck by a vehicle or construction machinery, which often weighs thousands of pounds. Accidents such as these can cause a fatality
Electrocution - Only licensed professionals should work with electricity. Still, if a safety procedure isn't followed, this can easily lead to electrocution. Additionally, a worker could be electrocuted if they use a faulty power supply or electric tools are faulty.
Highway construction accidents - Working next to a highway is inherently dangerous, even with the proper signage and traffic blockades. Additionally, heavy machinery that moves earth and road building materials can be hazardous to pedestrian workers.
Poor communication concerning hazards - Effective hazard communication is an area where the construction industry routinely fails. When risks and dangers aren't adequately communicated to workers, they are vulnerable to serious accidents that may lead to death.
Lack of respiratory protection - Construction workers are prone to be exposed to hazardous dust such as silica dust that scars the inside of the lungs, wood dust, which can cause nose cancer, and gypsum dust which can cause asthma and potentially deadly ENT problems. Another serious concern with the lack of respiratory protection is exposure to asbestos. Construction work frequently requires demolition, and asbestos was regularly used in pre-70s construction. There are significant links between asbestos exposure to mesothelioma and other cancers.
Industrial truck accidents - Forklift accidents make up the majority of industrial truck accidents. This is usually because the operator did not have sufficient training or the load wasn't properly secured. These machines can weigh as much as 9,000 pounds. If they tip over, the operator is vulnerable to being crushed beneath.
How Can a Third Party Be Liable for a Fatal Workplace Injury?
Workers' compensation death benefits are typically the only legal recourse survivors have for compensation. That's because the Workers' Compensation Act essentially made a deal between employers and employees that when a worker is injured, they do not have to prove the employer was negligent to receive benefits. In return, employees cannot sue their employer for harm that came to them. However, when a third party is responsible for a worker's death, nothing prohibits the worker's surviving dependents from suing for damages.
Third-party liability occurs when a third party causes a person's death because of a negligent or reckless act or omission of an act. The third party in this type of claim must be separate from the worker's employer. Otherwise, it would fall under workers' compensation, where you cannot sue. Third-party liability could arise if a worker were killed while on the job due to a product defect or malfunction. Another example is a worker killed by a drunk driver en route to a work site. In this case, the drunk driver would be liable. A third example might be a maintenance worker who is killed at a customer's business through some act of negligence.
A third-party liability claim offers much more than a workers' compensation claim, which is usually very minimal. Workers' compensation also does not provide any recovery for mental anguish, loss of consortium, or punitive damages. Suppose a third party had responsibility for your loved one's death. In that case, you could file a workers' compensation claim and a third-party liability claim. They are not exclusive to one another.
Even if the death occurred on the job site, there still might be a third party that is liable. For example, suppose an outside janitorial service left a wet floor with no hazard signs, and your loved one died from a blow to the head when they slipped and fell. In that case, the janitorial service might be held responsible. If a construction worker dies from electrocution due to a faulty piece of equipment, the manufacturer could have some responsibility.
When you bring a third-party liability claim, you must prove the third party was negligent and at fault for the fatal workplace injury. Here is what is legally required to demonstrate negligence:
Duty of care - The duty of care is a legal obligation imposed upon individuals to exercise reasonable care to ensure others don't come to harm through their actions or inactions.
Breach of duty - The duty of care was breached
Causation - As a result of the breach, your loved one died
Damages - The loss of your loved one resulted in economic and non-economic damages
Strict liability or absolute liability is another sort of third-party liability law that doesn't require a plaintiff to prove the defendant did something reckless or dangerous to cause your loved one's death. Strict liability is standard in product liability cases where a defective or faulty product causes a fatality.
What Is the New York Scaffold Law?
The state of New York recognizes the hazards of working in the construction industry and, in response, enacted a law that requires building owners and general contractors to maintain safety practices and provide proper safety devices to workers engaged in any type of gravity-related job. This law is known as the New York Scaffold Law.
New York Labor Law violations can hold a building owner or general contractor absolutely liable for a construction worker's death because a labor law violation is automatically considered negligence. Filing a New York Scaffold Law claim has no impact on a workers' compensation claim if the responsible party is not the deceased's employer. This type of claim enables survivors to get compensation for the difference in lost earnings of the deceased that are not covered under workers' compensation, as well as wage raises, bonuses, and benefits.
Contact a Fatal Workplace Injury Lawyer in NYC
A fatal workplace accident has devastating effects on the survivors. You've lost a cherished member of your family, and while you're grieving, you now have to worry about the loss of income on top of your emotional distress. It's important to understand you have options and rights. It's critical for your lawyer to investigate the accident as thoroughly as the insurance company will in an effort to minimize their liability. It would be best if you had someone on your side fighting for you. We will work to ensure every avenue for maximum compensation is explored. Don't lose your right to fair compensation by delaying. We always put the interests of our clients first, and there is no charge if we don't win. Get in touch with a compassionate fatal workplace injury lawyer today for a free case evaluation.