Over 18 percent of all workplace deaths in the United States happen in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers reveal that a construction accident is more likely to result in wrongful death than any other type of accident and, more than one in five workplace fatalities in the U.S. happens on a construction site. Some states allow families of deceased workers to seek damages through wrongful death suits while others limit survivors’ recovery to the limits of workers’ compensation rules.
Ohio allows for both workers’ compensation and wrongful death compensation. Workers’ compensation provides benefits for survivors to compensate for lost wages and reasonable funeral expenses, whereas wrongful death compensation may include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of earning capacity, loss of earning potential and loss of benefits. Non-economic damages include the loss of parental guidance, loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment of life and physical and mental suffering between the time of injury and death.
Workers’ compensation provides those injured at work with compensation for lost wages, medical and occupational rehabilitation expenses regardless of fault. On the other hand, a wrongful death claim must be based on the negligent, reckless or intentionally wrongful acts of another party. Wrongful death claims may even allow for recovery of punitive damages in cases of egregious misconduct as a way of punishing the defendant for that behavior and deterring others from engaging in similar behavior.
A fatal construction accident is more likely to occur than fatal accidents in most other industries due to the high risk associated with heavy machinery, power tools and hazardous substances that construction workers encounter. Employers in Ohio are held to strict safety standards; if they do not comply with these standards, fatal workplace accidents can occur. If an Ohio employer does not take proper safety precautions and an construction worker dies as a result, surviving family members may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits as well as compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit.