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Workers' compensation is payable to the family in a death case

When a worker suffers a workplace injury, he or she is generally covered by workers' compensation. Under the workers' compensation laws in New Hampshire and elsewhere, the worker's remedy of collecting wage benefits and medical expenses for a disabling injury under those laws is the exclusive way to collect from the employer. If third parties other than the employer were negligent in causing severe injury or death to the worker, even if it happened at work, a claim may be made against the third-party wrongdoer for traditional personal injury damages.

Industrial workplace accidents are unfortunately common. In a recent accident, a 60-year-old worker fell into a hydraulic press at work. He was using the hydraulic press, got stuck in the machine and suffered a massive head injury, according to police. When a fatal accident occurs at work, the worker's immediate family is generally entitled to collect the worker's wage benefits. There is some stipend added for funeral and burial expenses, and all medical expenses are paid.

In the reported accident, the details of how it happened can be important. There is generally no question of benefits being payable to the decedent's family when the fatal accident occurred in the course of employment. The outstanding question under these facts will be whether the machine itself was unreasonably dangerous and defective for the purposes intended.

The manufacturer or seller of a machine involved in serious injury or death at work could be responsible for personal injury damages over and above workers' compensation benefits. This would be true under New Hampshire law if the machine was unreasonably dangerous and no warnings of the danger were posted. Where a defect exists that made the machine a danger to users, there can also be liability due to the defect, depending upon the circumstances.

Source:, "One dead in west side workplace accident", June 20, 2016

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