It’s the phone call or knock on the door that no one ever wants to get: the news that your spouse has been tragically killed on the job in a workplace disaster. On top of the immediate sense of shock and grief at losing your loved one, you’re now inundated with what seems like thousands of details—working out funeral arrangements, processing your grief, and figuring out how to cover the sudden loss of income. What steps can you take now to find out what happened and what, if anything, you can do to recover from the loss?
Death Benefits versus Wrongful Death
Under normal conditions, California’s workers’ compensation insurance provides a death benefit for spouses and dependents of those who die while on the job. This benefit provides a modest sum for burial expenses plus a weekly stipend. However, this is usually a fraction of what your spouse made at work, and it’s rarely enough to sustain a household for any length of time. At best, it’s supplemental income.
However, many workplace accidents are preventable. If it’s a serious accident that perhaps involves more than one victim, chances are the employer was negligent in some way and failed to provide safe working conditions for its employees. If there is evidence of negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the company—which won’t bring your loved one back but can go much further toward covering your losses.
Finding Out What Really Happened
There will almost always be an internal investigation conducted to determine what caused the accident—but considering that the company (and their insurers) want to avoid any indications of blame, chances are that investigation will be biased and may even omit key facts and evidence. Police investigations and even third-party forensic investigations can provide clearer details of what happened. Some tips to get more neutral information about what happened:
- Gather eyewitness testimony. Talk to employees who saw what happened and record it (either in writing or via audio) while the memories are still fresh.
- Get photographic evidence. You may or may not be allowed at the accident site depending on safety issues, but to whatever extent you’re able, take photos of the site (or get them from eyewitnesses who were smart enough to take photos).
- Contact a good attorney as soon as possible. Optimally, this should be a lawyer with experience both in workers’ comp and wrongful death cases—someone who can gather and interpret the evidence fairly and navigate the complex insurance and legal issues to make sure you get the full compensation to which you’re entitled.
The lawyers at Accident Defenders are experienced in processing workers’ compensation death benefits and investigating and litigating wrongful death claims. Your loss has been great enough with the loss of your loved one; take action now to get the financial support you and your family both need and deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 323-818-HURT or fill out our online contact form.