According to a recent report, a North Carolina factory worker was killed in an on-the-job accident. The worker was employed at a large lumber mill in Pitt County when a forklift overturned. The worker was a machine operator who had been employed at the mill for seven-and-a-half years before his death.
The mill employs nearly 200 people and is closed until further notice. The state workers’ safety department is conducting an investigation into what went wrong. It has also been reported that this company has had four serious safety violations listed on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.
As your Winston-Salem workers’ compensation attorney can explain, while most people think of workers’ compensation in terms of an on-the-job injury, the deceased employee’s family can file a claim for death benefits under the program.
Workers’ compensation death benefits are designed to pay for the costs associated with the worker’s death, including medical expenses and the funeral, as well as lost wages. The method of payment will depend on what type of settlement is reached between the workers’ compensation insurance carrier and the claimant. Sometimes there is a lump sum payment and other times there are payments made over time on regular intervals.
It should be noted significant negotiation or litigation may be necessary before the workers’ compensation carrier agrees to a reasonable settlement. Even if your employer fully supports the payment to the surviving family, the insurance company may still deny a claim, because it is in their financial interest.
Normally, the worker’s estate is required to file a claim for death benefits with the employer and is prohibited from suing the employer in a wrongful death negligence action. However, there may be exceptions to this prohibition if there is a third party that could be held liable for a worker’s death.
An example in this case would be if the equipment that injured the worker were found to be defective. The employee or estate representative could sue the manufacturer of the defective product in a negligence suit. However, if successful, the plaintiff would be required to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurance carrier for the difference of any benefits had already been paid.
Another exception to the rule that prohibits a worker from filing a civil negligence lawsuit when eligible to receive workers’ compensation involves serious acts of misconduct by the employer. If the employer engaged in conduct that was so negligent to the point where it goes beyond what was contemplated in the workers’ compensation statute, the employer may be subject to liability in civil court.
Courts have been willing to recognize this exception when the conduct exhibited by the employer showed a complete disregard for the health and safety of the injured worker. While this is not something that happens in the average case of an on-the-job injury claim, you can discuss this with you workers’ compensation attorney if you feel that the facts warrant such a discussion.
If you have been injured at work in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Victim in fatal Weyerhaeuser plant accident identified, August 7, 2014, WCTI12.com
More Blog Entries:
Steel Foundry Fined $2.4 Million for Safety Violations, May 5, 2014, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog