In Pennsylvania, a woman working at a meat processing plant was killed on the job when she fell into a meat grinder. The woman was standing at the top of a set of wheeled stairs above the meat grinder when she either fell into it or was somehow drawn into the grinder. The grinder had to be stopped and disassembled, and it took two hours to remove the body from the grinder.
While there is a possibility that the woman slipped and fell, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is also investigating the possibility of workplace negligence on the part of the company. There is little information about the circumstances of the action that is currently available. OSHA enforces safety standards at jobsites across the country. In the event that the company’s negligence caused the woman’s death, OSHA can initiate an enforcement action against the employer. This could result in a fine or other disciplinary action against the company.
The issue with this accident is whether the employee’s family can sue the employer for wrongful death if it turns out that they were negligent. It is here where it is important to remember the differences between a workers’ compensation claim and a wrongful death suit.
In a normal workers’ compensation claim, the settlement covers only lost wages and medical bills. It does not include anything else such as pain and suffering and disability. The workers’ compensation system prevents the employer from being sued for workplace accidents. The system is a type of compromise that pays claims while giving companies a benefit for their mandatory participation. However, there is a way to sue an employer if a worker was killed on the job.
A wrongful death suit can be brought on behalf of close family members of the deceased. While the lawsuit would not be intended to compensate the family members for the general loss of the loved one, it would compensate them for their particular loss. Essentially, this would compensate the family for the support that the deceased provided and their overall presence in the family’s life. This type of suit could allow the employer’s negligence to be brought into court, as opposed to a workers’ compensation claim, where the employer’s negligence cannot be an issue.
Whether a wrongful death suit can be brought depends entirely on the state. Some states will not allow any suit to proceed outside of the workers’ compensation system. Other states hold that the death of the employee can take the case out of the workers’ compensation system and open it up to the regular courts.
In addition, some states provide for a death benefit as part of the workers’ compensation claim in the event that the employee loses their life on the job. You will need an attorney to advise you on the comparative merits of proceeding under the workers’ compensation system as opposed to suing for wrongful death if that is an allowable option. While a wrongful death may lead to a larger settlement, there are also delays while the suit proceeds and the possibility that you may not win the suit. A personal injury attorney at The Law Offices Of Sadaka Associates can help advise you as to the best course of action and how to proceed with either a claim or a lawsuit.