In our previous post, we looked briefly at the topic of workers’ compensation death benefits, both as to what types of benefits are available through the workers’ compensation system and to whom they are available. Here we want to speak briefly about the connection between workers’ compensation benefits and wrongful death actions.
It is important to realize that, under Illinois law, workers’ compensation benefits are offered to injured workers and the surviving dependants of an employee killed in the course of employment on an exclusive basis. This is sometimes called the “exclusive remedy” rule. This means that injured employees and surviving dependants of deceased employees generally may not sue an employer for damages. In cases where an employee is killed while on the job by a negligent third-party, though, his or family may be able to pursue damages for negligence or wrongful death.
There are a variety of potential scenarios where a negligent third-party actor could come into play. One possibility is when an employee suffers fatal injuries due to a car accident in which he or she is involved in the course of employment. We’ve previously spoken about this possibility. In such cases, the surviving family members will want to be sure to pursue workers’ compensation benefits from the employer, but the possibility of pursuing wrongful death litigation against any negligent third-parties should certainly be explored as well. Pursuing wrongful death litigation does not affect the ability of surviving family members to receive workers’ compensation benefits, since the exclusive remedy rule would only prevent actions between the employer and the employee’s surviving dependants.
Aside, from third party actions, the possibilities for pursuing negligence and wrongful death actions are quite limited. It is important, though, to consult with an experienced attorney to have one’s case evaluated and to determine the possibilities for one’s case.