Prior to the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over four decades ago, the annual death toll for U.S. workers exceeded 14,000. In 2014, 4,821 workplace fatalities were documented by OSHA. Since the turn-of-the-century, the annual rate has been as high as 5,840 (2006). In 2014, the most recent year for which data has been finalized, the “all-worker fatal injury rate” was 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
Although deaths while on the job have decreased from more than three dozen per day in the 1970s to less than one-third of that today, unnecessary loss of life is still all too common. Dr. David Michaels, OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, put it this way, “Making a living shouldn’t have to cost you your life. Workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are preventable. Safe jobs happen because employers make the choice to fulfill their responsibilities and protect their workers.”
Minnesota Worker Fatalities
2014 is the most recent year for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled data regarding Minnesota worker deaths. During that year, 62 workers died in Minnesota. For the period from 2008 to 2014, the number of yearly worker deaths has remained fairly steady between 60 and 70. In 2014, 40 percent of Minnesota’s workplace deaths resulted from transportation incidents. Another 15 percent were the result of falls, slips or trips. Twenty-six percent of Minnesota’s workplace fatalities were the result of contact with objects or equipment. Most of these fatalities occurred due to a worker being struck by an object.
Ninety-seven percent of the workers killed on the job were men, while 48 percent of the work-related fatalities involved workers 25 to 54 years old. Fifty-six percent of those killed while on the job in Minnesota in 2014 worked for salaries or wages, and the other 44 percent were self-employed.
Minnesota Death Benefits
Minnesota workers compensation laws provide for spouse benefits upon injury resulting in death. Such payments to surviving a surviving spouse are, first and foremost, designed to get a spouse and dependent children through those first couple of challenging years after they endure such an ultimate loss.
Sec 176.111 of Minnesota’s state statutes defines who receives death benefits. According to subd. 5 of the statute, $60,000 is the minimum dependency compensation which must be paid. Per subd. 3, compensation is paid to those wholly dependent upon the deceased worker for financial support in this order – wife, child, husband, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, grandchild, sister, brother, mother-in-law and father-in-law. Under the law, these individuals are considered “actual dependents” of the deceased if they were fully dependent upon him/her for financial support.
In some cases, stepchildren, children born outside of marriage and other individuals may qualify for death benefits. Provisions are also made for cases when no individuals are related to the deceased as noted above.
Although workers compensation benefits are usually the “exclusive remedy” available to survivors of those killed on the job, exceptions do arise. Also, when the negligent conduct of a non-employer is a factor, it may also be possible to seek compensation for losses under the state’s personal injury laws. When it is reasonable to assert that a worker died due to the negligence of a “third party,” survivors, most commonly spouses and children, have a right to pursue wrongful death litigation in the state’s civil courts. In such lawsuits, survivors often seek compensation for certain medical expenses, burial expenses, pain, suffering and loss of companionship.
If a family member is a victim in a workplace accident, it is possible to review the details from a legal perspective with a workers compensation lawyer. Our firm will provide such a consultation free of charge and without obligation. At Chesley, Harvey and Carpenter, we work hard to ensure that our clients properly receive all benefits provided for under Minnesota law. Please contact us for further assistance.
Contact A Mankato Workers' Compensation Lawyer Today
Contact the law office of Chesley, Harvey & Carpenter today at (507) 625-3000 for a free case review. We are located in Mankato, Minnesota.