What Legal Recourse Do Families Have When a Loved One Is Killed on the Job?
Finding and keeping a job in these times is not an easy thing to do, and while the job market has improved from the low points hit during the recession of 2009, people still struggle to find reliable employment. Consequently, many of those out of work may look to jobs that are vastly different than what they did previously, and perhaps, one that involves more danger as well. Why would someone take a position that could leave them permanently disabled or dead, leaving their family to potentially sue for wrongful death? One primary reason a person would consider a job that presents a threat to health and safety is the higher financial reward. Jobs many consider dangerous also tend to pay more so that people will be enticed to assume the risk. A recent story in Esquire Magazine looks at the rate of deaths that occur on the job and the need for better safety standards to prevent the number of annual deaths from increasing. The article specifically noted that fatal accidents happened most often in construction, transportation, warehousing, forestry, agriculture, and fishing and hunting. It is doubtful anyone wants to die this way, and families with these tragedies should know when and how they can hold an employer responsible.
When someone is injured on the job, it is typical to think of filing a workers’ compensation claim to cover medical expenses and lost wages. Workers’ compensation insurance is liability insurance employers buy to cover medical costs and worker disability expenses related to injuries employees may suffer in the course of performing their work. The system is supposed to promote a more efficient method of getting the worker the help needed so he/she can return to the job faster. The trade-off for getting these benefits in a more efficient manner is employees almost always lose the right to sue the employer for negligence and are limited to collecting the disability and death benefits included in the policy limits, which are much lower than a plaintiff would expect to receive in a personal injury lawsuit. Additionally, the families of employees who die are also usually barred from suing the employer over the accident. There are, however, circumstances that provide an exception to this prohibition on suing an employer.
Exceptions to Limitations on Employer Liability
Florida law allows injured employees and their families to sue employers for injuries suffered during the performance of their normal duties if the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, or, more importantly, if the employer deliberately took actions to injure the employee. In order to show the injury was not the result of an accident, the injured party would need to prove the employer intended to cause the injury and took steps to achieve this result. Specifically, it must be shown the employer engaged in behavior he/she knew from past experience was almost certain to cause injury or received an earlier warning identifying this danger. Further, the employee must not have known about the danger and the employer deliberately concealed the risk to prevent the employee from exercising judgment as to whether he/she should do the work.
If your loved one died as the result of accident while on the job, you should check with a personal injury lawyer about the possibility of suing the employer. It is true that many families are restricted to workers’ compensation benefits, but there may be cause to claim the employer acted intentionally, which an experienced personal injury lawyer can assess. The knowledgeable lawyers at the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado can assess the merits of your case, and inform you of your legal options. Contact us for a free consultation.