Handling Wrongful Death in the Workplace in Massachusetts
Some lines of work tend to be more prone to accidents than others. Hopefully, your employer maintains a safe work environment and ensures all employees are properly trained to minimize injuries. However, sometimes accidents are so serious that victims do not survive. Ordinarily, the decedent’s family would have a wrongful death claim. However, the law carves out a special exception for employers.
Employers are exempt from liability for a wrongful death that was caused by a work-related accident or incident. This exemption means that if your loved one was unfortunately killed in an on-the-job accident, you cannot sue their employer for wrongful death. However, that does not mean you do not have other legal options. It may be possible to get compensation for your loved one’s death through others means, like workers’ compensation, or by filing different personal injury claims.
If you lost a loved one in a work-related accident, talk to our Boston wrongful death lawyers about your legal options. You cannot sue an employer for wrongful death, but we can help you find other means of compensation. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 for a free legal consultation.
What is Wrongful Death in Massachusetts
Wrongful death claims are governed by Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 229, § 2. Under this law, wrongful death is described as a death caused by negligence or willful, wanton, or reckless conduct. Wrongful death cases involve damages that the decedent could have claimed had they survived. While many wrongful death lawsuits stem from accidents, it is possible to sue someone for wrongful death for an intentional killing.
Damages for wrongful death can be numerous and somewhat complicated. We must consider the damages your loved one could have claimed had they survived, including their medical bills, pain and suffering, and possible lost earnings. We must also consider how you and your family have been impacted since your loved one’s death. In many cases, family members relied on the decedent as the primary breadwinner for the family. Without them, the entire household will struggle. We can claim damages for lost financial support in addition to the loss of companionship and consortium.
However, the law specifically states that employers are not liable for the wrongful death of their employees. This applies in instances where an employee dies in a work-related accident. Instead, you may have to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Contact our Cambridge wrongful death attorneys about your case today. We can help you identify defendants in your case and claim damages.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Work-Related Wrongful Death Case in Massachusetts?
While employers are generally exempt from liability for a work-related death of an employee, there may be another defendant who shares responsibility. In any case involving death from an accident, there could be third parties that share blame for causing the accident.
A third party would be someone outside the employer-employee relationship who somehow contributed to the accident that killed your loved one. A third party does not necessarily have to be present on the scene of the accident to be held liable.
A third party could be a fellow employee who you believe caused the accident. A third party could also be a company that manufactured faulty or defective equipment that ultimately contributed to your loved one’s accident. For example, if your loved one worked as a welder, they probably used dangerous equipment that must meet safety standards as part of their job. If the manufacturer of this equipment provided defective tools, the tools could cause a deadly accident, and the manufacturing company could be held liable as a third party.
You could also sue other employees who you believe caused the accident that killed your loved one. For example, if your loved one was a delivery driver and was driving with a partner, but that partner was drunk behind the wheel of the delivery truck, you could sue the drunk partner for causing the accident that killed your loved one. Call our Massachusetts wrongful death lawyers for more information about suing third parties.
What Happens When a Wrongful Death is Related to a Work Accident in Massachusetts?
While wrongful death lawsuits may be appropriate in many different situations, there are a few where the claim is prohibited. One such situation, as mentioned above, involves employers and employees. Employers cannot be held liable for the death of their employees in Massachusetts. If your loved one was unfortunately killed in a job-related accident, you will have to find a different legal option to get compensation for their death.
The primary method for getting compensation for work-related injuries in Massachusetts is workers’ compensation. In this state, all employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation may include death benefits if an employee is tragically killed on the job.
However, employers are only protected from liability for wrongful death if the deceased employee was acting within the scope of their job when the accident occurred. It is possible that if your loved one was not technically on the job or performing duties they should have been, their employer could be held liable. It is important to speak with an attorney about your case to determine if this loophole could work in your case.
You might also sue an employer if your loved one was not considered an employee under the law. While most workers will fit the legal definition of an employee, people like independent contractors do not. If your loved one was working as an independent contractor, you might be able to sue the person who hired them. Our Somerville wrongful death lawyers are here to help you through this difficult time.
Call Our Massachusetts Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you lost a loved one in a work-related accident, your legal options for a wrongful death claim might be limited. However, we can help you explore your options. Contact our Wakefield wrongful death attorneys for help. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 for a free legal consultation.