Death in the Workplace – What Damages are Possible? 

If a spouse or loved one is killed while on the job, the right to recovery and the amount of compensation will depend upon the parties involved.

Compensation from an Employer

Normally when an employee is killed on the job, the only right of action against and compensation from the employee’s employer is through workers’ compensation.  In New York, worker’s compensation typically provides an immediate death benefit for funeral expenses (often $5,000 – $6,000) as well as a weekly cash benefit (often about two-thirds of the worker’s weekly average pay for the preceding year) which is available for distribution to beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries do not need to prove negligence under workers’ compensation law to obtain these benefits, nor does it matter if the worker was partly at fault (such as by failing to follow safety guidelines).

Compensation from Others at Fault

Often, when employees are killed at work, there are a number of others who may be legally liable.  For instance, while the family of a deceased employee of a subcontractor may be limited to seeking compensation from the subcontractor/employer under workers’ compensation laws, the family is not limited by workers’ compensation laws from seeking compensation from others that may be at fault.  In a construction setting, those liable could additionally include other subcontractors, a general contractor, the property owner, and the manufacturers and distributors of defective equipment.

Who is Entitled to Receive Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?

The law regarding who is entitled to receive workers’ compensation death benefits in New York is somewhat complex, and, much like in the case where a person dies without a will, the beneficiaries in some cases may be dependent upon the classifications of people who survive the worker.  Generally, the classifications include a spouse and minor children (and adult disabled children), adult student children, grandchildren, dependent parents, dependent grandchildren, dependent parents, and the estate of the deceased.  A surviving spouse and dependent children will take priority.

As such, people in these classes may or may not be entitled to death benefits – the actual people entitled to benefits depend not only on considering the survivors, but also ensuring that those in the classifications meet any statutorily-imposed requirements.  For example, a spouse who abandoned a worker prior to the worker’s death may not be entitled to a death benefit.[1]

How We Help

As experienced New York wrongful death lawyers, we carefully investigate accident cases, often using accident reconstructionists, to identify all those who may be legally liable for wrongful death arising in workplace settings.  It is important to identify and to bring an action against all responsible parties, as this is the only way to recover full compensation.

Further, when all potentially-responsible parties are not sued, the ones who are defendants in court will tend to avoid liability by blaming other parties who are not being sued.

Call Us for a Free Consultation to Learn About Your Rights

If a loved one has been killed in a workplace or non-workplace accident, please call us to find out how we may be able to help you recover full compensation.  We have represented clients in injury cases for decades, and are experienced in bringing injury and wrongful death cases.

We will meet with you for a free, no-obligation consultation.  We usually represent clients in wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means that there is no fee to us unless we are successful in recovering compensation for you.

Related Pages


[1] N.Y. Workers’ Comp Law §16 (Consol. 2002)

Client Testimonials