Understanding Catastrophic & Fatal Workplace Injuries

Catastrophic workplace injuries, including fatalities, are life-altering for injured workers and their entire family. There will be a devasting toll on the physical, emotional, and financial well-being as well as the quality of life enjoyed before tragedy hit. If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic workplace injury, it’s important to understand your rights, the workers’ compensation available to you, and the role of a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer in protecting your interests.

Catastrophic or fatal workplace injuries can occur across various industries and occupations. Some common causes of catastrophic injuries in workplaces include:

  • Falls from Heights: Falls from ladders, scaffolding, or elevated platforms can result in severe injuries such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, or fractures.
  • Machinery Accidents: Malfunctioning or improperly guarded machinery can cause catastrophic injuries, including amputations, crush injuries, or severe lacerations.
  • Workplace Violence: Acts of violence, such as assaults or shootings, can lead to catastrophic injuries for the employees involved.
  • Transportation Accidents: Motor vehicle accidents involving company vehicles or while performing work-related tasks can result in catastrophic injuries.
  • Exposure to Hazardous Substances: Exposure to toxic chemicals, gases, or hazardous substances can lead to serious long-term health effects, including respiratory conditions, organ damage, or cancer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tracks workplace injuries and provides valuable statistics on workplace safety. While specific statistics for Delaware may vary, OSHA reports nationwide data on catastrophic injuries and deaths. They report that the top three causes are falls, being struck by objects, and being caught between objects of machinery. 

Whether you work in a warehouse, office, or on a construction site, there are risks faced each day that can have a life-altering impact on a worker. It may not appear as obvious in some workplaces versus others, but the danger is just as real. This is the reason why employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. 

Workers’ Compensation Benefits After Catastrophic Injury

Catastrophic workplace injuries can cast a long dark shadow often requiring months or years of recovery. In fact, such an injury can end a career or even a life. Delaware law ensures there are benefits available to assist workers who suffer such devasting injuries. These laws protect the physical, financial, and emotional well-being of the worker and their family. 

Workers who suffer catastrophic injuries in Delaware may be entitled to the following workers’ compensation benefits:

Medical Treatment: 

Catastrophic injuries often require extensive medical treatment, including surgeries, specialized therapies, medications, and rehabilitation. Workers’ compensation benefits cover the necessary medical expenses related to the injury.

Disability Benefits: 

Catastrophic injuries may result in temporary or permanent disability. Workers may be eligible for various types of disability benefits, including:

  • Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits: If the worker is unable to work while recovering, TTD benefits provide wage replacement at a percentage of their average weekly wage.
  • Permanent Total Disability (PTD) Benefits: If the catastrophic injury leads to a total and permanent disability, PTD benefits may be available to provide ongoing wage replacement.
  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits: In cases where the worker sustains a permanent impairment but can still work in a limited capacity, PPD benefits compensate for the loss of function or earning capacity.

Vocational Rehabilitation: 

Workers who are unable to return to their previous job due to a catastrophic injury may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. These services aim to help injured workers develop new skills or find alternative employment.

Death Benefits: 

In the unfortunate event of a worker’s death due to a catastrophic injury, death benefits may be provided to the surviving dependents. These benefits can include compensation for funeral expenses and ongoing financial support for the dependents.

Returning to Work

Returning to work after a catastrophic injury can be a complex decision and is dependent on various factors. While it may not be possible to resume the same job as before the injury, the goal is often to facilitate a safe and productive return to work. The following options are available:

  1. Modified Duty: Employers may offer modified or light-duty positions that accommodate the worker’s restrictions or limitations while they recover.
  2. Vocational Rehabilitation: Vocational rehabilitation programs can help injured workers explore new job opportunities, develop new skills, or receive training for alternative employment.
  3. Job Placement Assistance: If returning to the previous employer is not possible, job placement services may help injured workers find suitable employment with a different employer.
  4. d. Considerations for Permanent Disability: In cases where the catastrophic injury results in permanent disability, workers may need to explore options for long-term disability benefits, social security disability, or other forms of financial assistance.

Filing a Lawsuit Against an Employer or Third Party

Workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, meaning that injured workers cannot typically sue their employer for additional damages. However, there are certain situations where an injured worker or their family may have grounds to file a lawsuit. These include:

  1. Employer’s Intentional Misconduct: If an employer’s intentional misconduct or gross negligence led to catastrophic injury, the injured worker may have the right to pursue a lawsuit seeking additional compensation.
  2. Third-Party Liability: If a third party, such as a contractor, manufacturer, or property owner, contributed to the workplace injury, the injured worker may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against that party to seek additional damages.

Your Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Navigating the workers’ compensation system and determining potential avenues for legal action can be complex. Having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer by your side can greatly benefit your case. A skilled lawyer can:

  1. Provide Legal Guidance: Educate you on your rights, explain the legal process, and guide you through the complexities of the workers’ compensation system.
  2. Gather Evidence: Collect and present necessary medical records, expert opinions, and other evidence to strengthen your claim for maximum compensation.
  3. Negotiate with Insurance Companies: Advocate on your behalf to ensure fair settlement negotiations or represent you in hearings and appeals if necessary.
  4. Explore Legal Options: Assess the circumstances surrounding your injury to determine if there are grounds for pursuing a lawsuit against an employer or third party for additional damages.

You and your attorney will work together. They are the ones you will turn to for advice and be the person you can trust to advocate, negotiate, and even litigate on your behalf. The goal is to provide the personalized and compassionate attention you and your family need in order to achieve the best outcome possible. 

If you or someone you love has suffered a catastrophic workplace injury, contact Schmittinger & Rodriguez today for a FREE consultation. Call us now at (302)-674-0140.

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