Workplace Deaths and Compensation: What If Your Spouse’s Negligence Was a Factor?

Losing your spouse in a workplace accident is tragic and traumatic enough on its own. But when there is uncertainty over whether you can recover a settlement, the anxiety is even greater. One of the most common questions we get with workplace fatality cases is, “If my spouse’s negligence played a role in the accident, will my family still receive compensation?”

The answer is complicated, but the good news is that in California, families can recover a settlement regardless of who was at fault. Let’s dive deeper into this question, so you know what to expect if you’ve recently lost a loved one in a workplace accident.

Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

Let’s start with the good news. In California, workers’ compensation insurance applies regardless of fault. That means if your spouse is injured at work due to their own negligence, workers’ compensation still covers the lost income and medical expenses. The same applies to death benefits, so regardless of how much of a role your spouse played in the accident, you should still receive the full amount of compensation allowed by law.

Wrongful Death and Comparative Negligence

In many workplace fatality cases, the family may also be eligible to file a wrongful death claim against the employer if the accident was caused by employer negligence. But here’s where you might see your settlement affected if your loved one’s negligence was a contributing factor.

California is a “comparative negligence” state, which means you can file a claim even if your spouse was partly responsible for their own death—but the damages you receive will be reduced in proportion to your spouse’s fault. Let’s say an investigation reveals your husband or wife was 30% responsible for the accident that took their life, and the employer was 70% responsible. Under California law, if you file a wrongful death claim and win, you’ll only recover 70% of the total settlement you would have received if the employer was completely at fault. Of course, this is a simplistic view of the issue. A good wrongful death attorney may be able to identify other factors (such as “willful or wanton misconduct” on the employer’s part), which could still help you recover more for your loss.

What This Means for Your Settlement

Even if your spouse played a partial role in their own death, rest assured that you will still qualify for workers’ compensation death benefits, and you may still be eligible to receive a settlement for a wrongful death claim. However, it’s still essential to have professional legal help to ensure you and your family receive the full amount the law entitles you to receive. At Accident Defenders, our team of attorneys has plenty of proven experience helping bereaved loved ones receive compensation in workplace death cases. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 323-818-HURT or fill out our online contact form.


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