In the midst of a year of many sobering statistics, one that affects workers shouldn't be overlooked. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that workplace deaths in 2019 reached a 12-year high.
In 2019, there were 5,333 fatalities as a result of on-the-job injuries. This represented a 1.6 percent increase from 2018's figure. This appears to be primarily driven by the increased number of workers, as the rate of fatalities remained unchanged at 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
According to the BLS data, nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries were transportation-related, such as vehicle accidents. Slip and falls in the workplace resulted in 880 of those deaths, about 16.5 percent of the total. Overdose deaths at work also increased for the seventh straight year.
The trends are clear: employers are not doing enough to safeguard workers' lives on the job.
"Leadership needs to set the tone from the top and engage all workers in safety, identify hazards and measure safety performance using leading indicators to continuously improve," said the National Safety Council in a statement.
When Ohio workers are killed on the job, their families have legal rights
Ohio's workers' compensation system provides up to three types of benefits for families of deceased workers. First, if the worker was already receiving compensation, such as temporary total disability at the time of death, then the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation will pay the accrued compensation to compensate the worker's estate, their dependents, or to pay any unpaid bills to medical providers. This applies when an on-the-job injury causes both disability and eventual death; for instance if the worker was hospitalized due to an injury and received disability for some weeks before dying. It also applies when a worker who had been receiving workers' compensation benefits dies of an unrelated cause.
When a worker dies as a result of a work accident or occupational disease, the worker's family may be entitled to workers' compensation death benefits, paid out to eligible dependents. The dependents who can receive ongoing death benefits include:
- The surviving spouse
- Dependent minor children (under 18)
- Dependents age 18-25 who are full-time students
- Adult dependents (18 and up) who are physically or mentally incapacitated
- Certain other relatives in some circumstances
Finally, workers' compensation will pay for funeral and burial expenses due to a covered injury, up to $5,500.
When an injured worker's death is caused by a third party (for instance, an at-fault driver in a vehicle accident, or the manufacturer of defective equipment), the family may also be able to file a third-party wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim can provide compensation for losses not covered by workers' compensation. This can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of care and companionship, as well as punitive damages in some cases.
We proudly stand up for workers' families
The rules governing workers' compensation death benefits in Ohio are complex. There are strict deadlines and legal requirements that must be met. That's where working with an experienced attorney can make all the difference. When we represent families who have lost loved ones, we put in every effort to resolve their legal situation in the most positive manner possible while clearing room for the family to focus on grieving and rebuilding their lives.
If you've lost a loved one to an on-the-job injury, we'd be honored to meet with you for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. There's no pressure, just candid answers about your legal rights and options. Give us a call or contact us online to schedule your consultation with Hochman & Plunkett Co., L.P.A.