Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

State, courts resolve complex Pennsylvania worker death claims

Who is to blame when an employee dies on the job? The answer determines the benefits and damages surviving family members receive. Death benefits from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers' Compensation and liability damages in wrongful death lawsuits are based on fault.

A workplace death traced to an employee's illegal use of alcohol or drugs can deprive the victim's family of benefits. In a civil court, a jury could determine an intoxicated employee was either partially or fully negligent, reducing or eliminating a damage award.

Washington D.C. Metro officials have not finished investigating a tunnel accident that recently killed a 41-year-old rail worker and hospitalized two others. The workers were among members of a crew assigned to tear up old subway rail lines and install new ones.

The victims were working along a track bed near a crane that lifted 2,000-pound rail sections into place. Several other machines and vehicles were on the jobsite, including a large rail welding machine that threw off sparks.

Officials are investigating claims a vehicle in the vicinity was leaking hydraulic fluid along the tracks and near the welder. The fluid might have ignited and caused an explosion that rocked the loaded crane. Authorities are also checking for evidence of mechanical failure.

A 40-foot-long section of rail swung into three workers. One employee died from a direct blow, while another broke his leg. The third victim's injuries were unidentified.

Liability for an on-the-job death is often shared among defendants, rather than between defendants and victims. An employer, covered by workers' compensation insurance, may be exempt from litigation. However, employees can die at worksites that don't belong to employers or due to malfunctioning machines, designed by negligent manufacturers.

Workers' compensation attorneys facilitate the death benefits process for surviving relatives. The same lawyers may also help recover financial losses through a wrongful death claim against third parties associated with the employee's death.


Source: 
articles.washingtonpost.com, "Contractor killed in Metro accident was a military veteran who'd been on the job 3 weeks" Dana Hedgpeth and Luz Lazo, Oct. 07, 2013

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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