In a previous post on this blog, we discussed our practice of identifying and pursuing all responsible parties following a work-related death due to construction negligence or for some other reason. One reason we take this approach is that, even though most Chicago area workers are covered by workers' compensation, the survivor benefits are often simply not enough to fully compensate a grieving family.
Some people might wonder how other parties can be held responsible in an employee death when workers' compensation is supposed to be an exclusive remedy for the families of Illinois employees killed while at work. The reason is that, while an employer need not worry about being sued by the family of a deceased employee so long as the employer had workers' compensation, such is not the case for anyone else who might be responsible for the fatal accident.
This legal concept is called third party liability, and what it means is that any third party, that is, anyone other than an employer, can be sued by the victim's family even though the accident happened at work. Thinking about the dangers present at a construction site, one can easily see how third party liability might be in play after a fatal construction accident. For instance, a defective piece of equipment may have been responsible for the worker's death and, in that case, the manufacturer of the product may owe compensation.
Whether and to what extent to pursue third party claims is often a complicated legal question, particularly since the victim's employer can seek to recoup some of the compensation the victim's family recovers to reimburse for workers' compensation. A skilled Cook County personal injury attorney can help navigate a family through the process.