Wrongful Death or Workers’ Comp During COVID-19?

By Stewart Law Offices
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What S.C. Families Need to Know

The coronavirus pandemic has already claimed the lives of essential workers nationwide. That’s a tragedy, especially because many have died providing services to those of us who are able to stay home to work. These losses have also led to valid legal questions: Do the surviving family members have any legal options after a work-related COVID-19 death? The attorneys at Stewart Law Offices can provide the answers you need during this painful time.

Can Families Obtain Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Their Loss?

In South Carolina, the vast majority of employees are covered under South Carolina workers’ compensation laws. Those laws include provisions if a worker dies from an injury or occupational illness that arises out of or during the course of employment.

Under the workers’ comp law, family members can receive death benefits through the deceased employee’s employer. These benefits include:

  • Providing two-thirds of the worker’s annual weekly wages to eligible family members for a period of 500 weeks
  • Payment of funeral and burial expenses of up to $2,500

There are some challenges that can make it difficult for deserving family members to receive death benefits. The first is that they must satisfactorily prove the death was work-related. With COVID-19 so widespread, employers may argue that there is no way to prove that the employee’s exposure (and resulting death) occurred on the job.

Another potential argument could be that the essential worker exposed himself or herself to the coronavirus by not following employer-provided sanitization procedures or wearing protective gear. These possible obstacles make it critical for family members to consult with a COVID-19 workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. The coronavirus has raised questions about how occupational illness cases will be decided in South Carolina. You’ll want someone with experience and knowledge to guide you in these uncharted waters.

Who Can Obtain Death Benefits When an Essential Worker Dies from COVID-19?

Workers’ compensation benefits are payable to dependent family members of the deceased. Typically, this includes the employee’s:

  • Spouse
  • Minor children
  • Adult children who are physically or mentally incapable of self-care
  • Adult children (under age 23) who are enrolled full time at an accredited educational institution

The laws regarding eligibility can get more convoluted in complex family situations or if there are no eligible survivors. If you are wondering whether you may receive South Carolina death benefits, a lawyer from Stewart Law Offices can help determine whether you qualify.

Can I Sue for Wrongful Death Due to Coronavirus?

With rare exceptions, South Carolina employers are immune from negligence lawsuits as long as they carry workers’ comp insurance. That’s because worker’s comp benefits require no proof of fault. In other words, they are available to workers and surviving family members regardless of who is responsible for the work injury or illness.

However, it could be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if surviving family members believe that a third party’s negligence led to an essential worker’s COVID-19 death. A variety of parties could be held liable. Determining who the defendants should be will depend on the circumstances surrounding the worker’s infection and death.

The advantage of a South Carolina wrongful death lawsuit compared to a workers’ comp claim is that families could have access to a wider range of damages. A successful wrongful death claim could result in compensation for losses such as:

  • Medical expenses for the deceased
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of household services
  • Pain and suffering

If you believe that your family member died as a result of negligence by a third party at work, a proven personal injury attorney can help you pursue a wrongful death claim in court. Family members will have the burden of proof to show that the third party was negligent — an undertaking that can be intense even without a pandemic to complicate matters.

Stewart Law Offices Will Demand Maximum Compensation for You

If your relative was an essential worker who died from COVID-19 complications, Stewart Law Offices extends its deepest sympathies to you.

As you grieve, please remember that your family could be entitled to South Carolina workers’ compensation death benefits or compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit. Our experienced attorneys can handle either type of claim and are available for private and free consultations right away.

Call 1-866-STEWART or contact us online to arrange your free consultation now.

Getting in any kind of accident can change your life. We understand the stress, the medical bills, the time missed from work, and the pain and suffering that comes with serious injuries. That is why our dedicated personal injury lawyers in the Carolinas are here to help you move forward.