A recent post on this blog described a tragedy at a Pennsylvania workplace. The story served as a stark reminder to Berks County residents that many people in this County, to some degree, put their lives at risk every time they go to work. Likewise, the families of the workers face the possibility of medical expenses, funeral bills and lost income should they lose a loved one suddenly in a fatal workplace accident.
Like all of the other states in the country, Pennsylvania has a workers' compensation law that provides benefits to the families of those employees who die in a workplace accident. While these benefits are paid without regard to who was at fault for the accident and, relatively speaking, are made available to the grieving family quickly, the trade off is that the worker's family cannot turn around and sue the employer, even if the employer was negligent.
This can make a family's situation all the tougher since workers' compensation does not cover all expenses and lost income and will not pay for non-economic damages like pain and suffering or emotional distress. As such, in Berks County, Pennsylvania, families who are grieving after a fatal workplace accident may want to be aware of several exceptions to the Pennsylvania's "exclusive remedy" provisions.
Any one of these exceptions can give a family the option of pursuing additional compensation, beyond work comp benefits, following a workplace tragedy. One common exception is that a worker, even if he or she cannot sue his or her employer, is free to sue a third party whose negligence contributed to the accident. For example, a highway construction worker who gets hit by a passing car while on the job site may be able to sue the driver of the car.
Even when workers' compensation benefits are available, families who have lost loved ones as part of a workplace accident may have other options for recovery that experienced lawyers can help them avail.