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Difference Between Workers’ Compensation & Wrongful Death Claims

In rare but devastating circumstances, your loved one may lose their life in the course of their occupation. If your spouse or other loved one was the main financial provider for your family, you may be wondering what your options are. The truth is, you have a couple of viable options – but which works better for your family? Here are a couple of different avenues for financial recourse following an occupational death – and which may be better for your family.

Death Benefits Following an Accident

The workers’ compensation system works differently in each state. California, like many other states in the union, offers death benefits to the surviving family members in the event of a workplace tragedy. The amount of death benefits you’ll receive will depend on the number of total and partial benefits the deceased has, and this amount is determined by the California Department of Industrial Relations. The government pays out these benefits on a weekly basis, and the surviving dependents have one year to file a claim for benefits.

There are advantages and disadvantages to collecting death benefits. The main benefit is that you won’t need to prove your loved one’s negligence contributed to his or her death. Since California’s workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system, collecting death benefits is as easy as filing a claim. However, there are also a couple of big disadvantages. In collecting benefits through the no-fault system, you forfeit your right to sue your loved one’s employer for additional damages. Death benefits also do not compensate for intangible losses, like suffering, loss of partnership, or a decrease in quality of life. Finally, the state of California caps benefits at $320,000.

Wrongful Death

In many cases, employees cannot sue their employers for workplace injuries since they are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. On the other hand, the survivors may be eligible to file a wrongful death suit in the event that someone loses their life on the job. In order to file a wrongful death suit, the surviving members of the family must prove:

  • That their loved one died as the result of someone else’s negligence, and;
  • The family suffered harm as a result. This could be a loss in income or earning capacity, as well as intangible losses.

There are advantages and disadvantages to wrongful death claims, as well. The main benefit is that families stand to gain greater compensation for a loved one’s death. They can sue for intangible losses and there are no damage caps. In some cases, such as when a death occurs from wanton misconduct, surviving family members can collect punitive damages. Such damages exist to punish defendants for gross wrongdoings and make an example of them to others.

The principal disadvantage of wrongful death suits is they can take a long time to settle or litigate. A proceeding may take months or even years.

Wrongful death claims and death benefits are different, and each option has its advantages and disadvantages. For further guidance, talk to a Wrongful Death attorney in Oakland.

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