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Are benefits available after a fatal workplace accident?


Ideally, workers’ compensation benefits are designed to make an injured worker whole again after suffering a workplace injury in the performance of his or her duties. Yet what can this type of policy offer to surviving loved ones after a worker suffers a fatal on-the-job injury?

According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, workers’ compensation benefits can be paid to dependents of a worker killed because of a work-related incident or illness. Surviving spouses and natural children who are minors presumptively fall within that definition, but other relations might also qualify if they can prove actual dependency. Children up to the age of 23 who are full-time students might also qualify.

Workers' compensation payments to survivors are characterized as death benefits. The amount is calculated at 70 percent of the deceased worker’s weekly wage, subject to a ceiling established by the state Commissioner of Labor. In the case of multiple dependents, a court will typically apportion the payments. In addition, the employer’s insurance carrier may also be expected to pay up to $3,500 in funeral expenses for a workplace-related death.

Yet modern workplaces are not always confined to areas separate from the public. For example, construction crews might work in close proximity to pedestrians. A recent example is the collapse of an approximately 500-foot crane in Manhattan. The boom became unsteady in the wind and crashed to the street below, killing one pedestrian and injuring several others.

In this case, the construction company may be facing personal liability and/or wrongful death liability since non-employees were injured, and one was killed. A law firm that focuses on personal injury law can explain such legal options after a construction site accident.