A worker at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was recently killed when his vehicle flipped after hitting a piece of luggage that had fallen on the tarmac.
The August accident happened at night when the worker, who was transporting baggage, noticed the dropped luggage and made a sharp turn to avoid it. The airport vehicle still struck the luggage and it overturned, pinning the driver underneath.
Any time there is a workplace accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires officials to investigate the incident to see if safety violations contributed to a worker’s injuries or death.
There were 47 workplace deaths in North Carolina from October 2018 to July 2019, according to the Department of Labor. In addition, the most current State OSHA Annual Report shows there has been a 48 percent increase in work-related deaths in the Tar Heel State over a recent five-year period.
North Carolina requires employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to provide coverage of medical costs and missed wages to accident victims, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
In the case of a workplace fatality, the N.C. workers’ comp system provides death benefits to eligible family members to assist with the economic losses that result from the loss of a loved one.
Who Can Get Death Benefits After a NC Workplace Accident?
The workers’ comp laws regarding who can receive death benefits in North Carolina are not as straightforward as one might think.
Determining who is entitled to benefits is based on analyzing whether certain relationships existed between the decedent and other potential beneficiaries. Generally speaking:
- Those who are deemed wholly dependent on the worker before his or her death are eligible to split the benefits
- Partial dependents may receive a portion of the deceased’s benefits
- If no full or partial dependents exist, then certain next of kin may receive a lump sum of the death benefits
The rules get more complicated if the family situation is more complex (e.g., if a beneficiary is not competent to receive the funds due to a mental disability, etc.). The best way to determine whether you are entitled to death benefits is by speaking with an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer.
What Kind of Death Benefits Are Available?
Death benefits provide wage reimbursement for two-thirds of the deceased workers’ weekly wage for a minimum of 500 weeks.
There are exceptions to the 500-week rule, such as if the deceased worker’s beneficiary was a minor. In that case, benefits are paid up until the child’s 18th birthday, even if that extends beyond the 500-week period.
Death benefits under the N.C. workers’ compensation system also provides funds for burial expenses up to $10,000.
Other Legal Options Beyond Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation benefits are not the only source of compensation in a workplace accident. Sometimes, an outside third party could have contributed to the incident.
For example, many workplace injuries occur on construction sites. Construction jobs are often given to a contractor and multiple subcontractors who work on the site at the same time. If you work for Contractor A and trip on a power tool left on the ground by someone in Company B, it may be possible to file a third-party claim against Company B for negligence.
Talk to a Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you lost a loved one in a North Carolina workplace accident, the compassionate attorneys at Stewart Law Offices want to hear your story. We can help you determine if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and if anyone else should be held accountable for the tragic accident.