Workers deserve safe conditions. Unfortunately, worker safety still has a long way to go. According to data from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), 693 workers were killed on the job in the state between 2010 and 2019. For a family, the loss of a loved one to a work-related fatality is devastating. Families deserve justice and the financial support they need.
At The Walthew Law Firm, we know workers’ compensation law. Our law firm is dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of injured workers and their families. If your family member was killed due to a work injury, it is imperative that you know your rights and options. Here, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers provide a detailed guide to workplace death claims in Washington.
Washington Law: Family Members Can File for Death Benefits through Workers’ Comp
As a starting point, it is important to emphasize that eligible surviving family members can claim workers’ comp benefits if their loved one dies from a job-related injury in Washington. Under Washington state law (RCW 51.32.050), these workers’ comp benefits are referred to as death benefits. They are intended to compensate surviving family members for the loss of financial support that they would have otherwise received from the victim.
An Overview of Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits in Washington
If your immediate family member was killed on the job in Washington, you have the right to file for financial support in the form of death benefits through the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system. Here are three key things families should understand about workers’ comp death benefits in Washington State:
- The Death Must Have Been Job-Related: Workers’ comp in Washington pays no-fault benefits to qualifying surviving family members. The fatal accident must have been work-related for benefits to be approved.
- Death Benefits are For Immediate Family/Dependents: The primary beneficiaries of workers’ compensation death benefits in Washington are immediate family members. Specifically, the surviving spouse and surviving minor children. Other dependents may also qualify.
- Death Benefits Come in Several Forms: Death benefits in Washington take several forms. An immediate one-time lump sum payment equivalent to the state’s average monthly wage should be issued. Reasonable funeral and burial expenses are covered. Most importantly, monthly survivor benefits—widow/widower pension—can be issued. These payments are similar to time loss. It is paid at 60 percent of a worker’s average monthly earnings. An increased level of benefits are available for those with surviving minor children. The rate of benefits is increased by 2 percent for each minor child the deceased worker had—up to a maximum of 5 children (70 percent of a worker’s average monthly wage).
Your Family Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Negligent Third Party
In Washington, a workers’ compensation claim is generally the sole legal remedy that an injured employee has against their employer. When a worker dies from job-related injuries, their family typically cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit against the victim’s employer. However, the surviving family members do have a right to file a wrongful death claim against a negligent third party. Examples of a negligent third party that may be a defendant in a fatal work accident claim include:
- A driver or trucking company;
- A property owner or developer;
- A contractor or subcontractor; and
- An equipment manufacturer (product liability).
While workers’ comp claims are no-fault legal actions—meaning no finding of fault is required for surviving family members to get death benefits—a third-party liability claim is based on fault. To hold a third party liable for a workplace fatality through a wrongful death lawsuit, the family must prove that the defendant’s negligence contributed to the accident. Through a third-party liability wrongful death claim, additional financial compensation may be available for the family—including for non-economic damages such as love, care, affection, companionship, and parental training. To learn more about your rights, contact our Washington third party liability attorney today.
Contact Our Washington Worker Fatality Attorneys Today
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers have the professional skills and legal experience to handle worker death claims. If your loved one was killed while on the job, we are here to help you navigate the claims process so that your family can get justice and the maximum benefits. For a free, strictly confidential consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us today. We serve Seattle, King County, and communities throughout Western Washington.