Workers Compensation vs. Wrongful Death Lawsuit: How to Recover Damages If Your Family Member Died at Work?


If your family member died at work, you are probably overwhelmed by a mixture of grief, anger, and frustration… And while everyone has their own ways to come to terms with the death of their loved one, there are only two ways to seek compensation for the death of your family member at work.

Generally, if your family member died in the course of employment, you have only two options: to pursue a workers compensation claim or file a wrongful death claim. Which one is best depends on a variety of factors, and our wrongful death claims attorney in Los Angeles is going to help you choose between filing a workers comp and wrongful death claim.

Filing a workers comp claim vs. wrongful death claim after your family member died at work

Under California’s workers comp law, spouses, children, parents, and other dependents of the deceased are entitled to collect death benefits when their family member died in a work-related incident or died from a job-related injury or illness.

How much your workers comp case is worth after your family member died at work depends on the number of total and partial dependents as well as the cause of the job-related or workplace death. Under California’s statute of limitations, family members of the deceased must file a workers comp claim within 12 months from the date of the death.

Pros and cons of filing a workers comp claim

Death benefits will be paid out to the eligible family members on a weekly basis. The biggest advantage of filing a workers compensation claim is that you do not need to prove that the deceased’s employer was negligent or in any other way at-fault for the death. “That’s because California’s workers comp program is a no-fault system,” explains our Los Angeles wrongful death attorney at Law Offices of Kropach & Kropach.

After reading this, many of you might think that collecting death benefits through a workers comp claim is the best option to seek compensation following your loved one’s death at work. But do not be quick to jump to conclusions just yet. There are at least three disadvantages of filing a workers comp claim:

  1. By filing a workers compensation claim and getting your claim approved, you are waiving your right to sue your family member’s employer for additional damages and losses;
  2. Death benefits recoverable under the workers comp system do not include non-economic losses such as the deceased’s pain and suffering, loss of consortium and partnership, as well as diminished quality of life as a result of the death; and
  3. The maximum amount of money recoverable through death benefits from workers comp in California are capped at $320,000.

Pros and cons of filing a wrongful death lawsuit

“Okay, so what about filing a wrongful death lawsuit after your loved one’s death at work?” you may be wondering. First and foremost, our wrongful death lawyer in Los Angeles warns that generally, employees are prohibited from suing their employers for job-related or workplace injuries, largely because they can seek compensation through workers comp.

If an employee dies at work, on the other hand, his or her family members and dependents may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. More often than not, there is no point in using the deceased’s employer if you are not represented by an experienced wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California.

As in the case of seeking compensation through a workers comp claim, there are both pros and cons of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. One of the biggest advantages is that the deceased’s family members can recover greater compensation, largely due to being able to seek compensation for non-economic damages. On top of that, there are no limits as to how much money the dependents can recover in their wrongful death lawsuit.

However, many families refrain from suing their loved one’s employer because wrongful death cases take a long time to settle and litigate, and can be quite costly. Speak to our best workers compensation lawyers in California to determine which option is best in your particular situation. Contact Law Offices of Kropach & Kropach for a free case evaluation. Call at 818-609-7005 today.

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