How Common Are Deadly Workplace Accidents in the United States?
November 9, 2021
Every year, there are nearly 3 million reported workplace accidents resulting in serious injuries, and more than 5,000 of these injuries are fatal, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The deadliest accidents are the result of explosions, fires, or toxic chemical exposure. In many cases, these incidents are the direct result of unsafe working conditions or defective machinery and equipment.
These terrible tragedies could have been prevented. When fatal accidents happen, surviving family members have the right to pursue legal action to recover damages for the losses they have endured.
Deadly workplace accidents are common in the U.S., with an average of 15 workers dying each day due to work-related injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The history of deadly workplace accidents in the U.S. goes back for more than 100 years. Examples of the deadliest accidents include the following:
- May 1900: More than 200 workers died in a mining explosion in Scofield, Utah.
- December 1907: In the worst mining disaster in U.S. history, 362 miners died when an underground explosion erupted in a mine in Monongah, West Virginia.
- March 1911: A total of 146 women and girls died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York, New York.
- July 1944: At a Naval Magazine, 4,600 tons of incendiary bombs exploded during ammunition loading at Port Chicago, California. A total of 320 cargo handlers, crewmen, and sailors died in the incident.
- July 1988: An American oil rig, the Piper Alpha, exploded in the North Sea and killed 167 workers.
- September 1991: A total of 25 workers died in an industrial fire at a chicken processing plant in North Carolina after being trapped inside by the locked fire doors. In its 11 years of operation, the factory had never received a safety inspection.
- February 2008: A dust explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia killed 13 people and injured more than 30 others.
- April 2010: An explosion in the Deepwater Horizon oil well killed 11 workers. This incident is one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.
In all of these cases, unsafe working conditions were the ultimate cause of these workers’ deaths. In the Deepwater Horizon oil spill alone, at least 50 wrongful death or personal injury cases were filed by survivors or relatives.
Are Surviving Family Members Eligible for Benefits After a Deadly Workplace Accident?
If a worker’s death is caused by a work-related injury or illness, family members may be eligible for benefits under Workers’ Compensation. Dependents who may be eligible for these benefits include widows, widowers, children under 18 years old, or students in school up to 23 years old. In addition, Workers’ Compensation can pay for some funeral expenses.
Workers’ Compensation laws are subject to change, and it is important for surviving family members to seek the assistance of a lawyer to understand their rights. Our skilled lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP help surviving family members determine whether they are entitled to death benefits. Also, we will help determine if a third party is responsible for the death.
Can Surviving Family Members File a Wrongful Death Suit?
When an employee dies in a workplace accident, surviving family members may think their rights are limited by Workers’ Compensation law. That is not always the case. If someone other than an employer is responsible for fatal injuries resulting from a deadly workplace accident, surviving family members can file a wrongful death suit against those third parties. Examples of potential third parties include manufacturers of unsafe equipment, distributors of dangerous chemicals, or contractors who install defective equipment.
A third-party claim allows surviving family members to recover damages not available under Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ Compensation shields employers from liability, but this legal protection does not apply to negligent third parties. For example, if defective equipment caused a workplace accident, the worker could pursue a products liability claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
State law typically stipulates that a single personal representative of the deceased person’s estate file a wrongful death claim on behalf of all beneficiaries. Not every individual who lost a loved one can bring a wrongful death claim. The personal representative may be the executor of the estate or someone appointed by the court if the deceased individual did not have a will.
Beneficiaries typically include spouses, children, parents, brothers, sisters, other extended family members, or friends named in a will or trust document. Wrongful death claims can be filed within a specific time period. To ensure their legal rights to filing a wrongful death claim, surviving family members should speak with an experienced lawyer.
How Has Galfand Berger LLP Helped Surviving Family Members Recover Damages After a Deadly Workplace Accident?
Over the years, Galfand Berger LLP has helped many surviving family members recover damages after a deadly workplace accident. We also go to great lengths to investigate deadly workplace accidents to determine whether these fatal injuries were due to negligence on the part of third parties.
The following two cases illustrate our success in obtaining significant client recoveries for deadly workplace accidents resulting from dangerous and defective industrial equipment:
- $36 million recovery for fatal workplace explosion. This terrible accident occurred when a large steel producing machine exploded, killing one worker and severely burning two others. We helped our clients get a significant recovery.
- $5.1 million settlement for four workers severely burned due to defective casting machinery. The workers were pouring molten metal into a die that was attached to a casting machine. While performing this task, the die loosened and ruptured, spraying the workers with molten metal and setting their clothes on fire. All four workers were severely burned, and one died. We investigated the accident and found that the casting machine was defective as designed because it should have been placed below floor level with interlocked access floor panels or a positively affixed interlocked pour guard. The manufacturer was therefore liable.
While each case is different and results depend on specific circumstances, one factor remains the same. Our legal system provides injured workers and surviving family members with a means to seek recovery of damages for these tragic losses.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Provide Skilled Legal Counsel to Surviving Family Members After Deadly Workplace Accidents
Losing a family member is always devastating. It can be even more unbearable when it is learned that your loved one’s death could have been prevented. If you have lost a loved one due to a deadly workplace accident, you have the right to seek damages from negligent parties. Our Philadelphia products liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP provide compassionate and skillful legal representation to surviving family members after deadly workplace accidents. Complete our online form or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) to schedule a free consultation and to learn more today. We have offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, and we proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.