No matter what type of job or profession you’re in, or how much you love what you do, everyone feels the sense of “daily grind” once in a while. And though there could be days when you’re just not feeling it at work, you should be safe no matter what. No one expects to head off to work one day and be injured—or worse.
But that’s exactly what happened in a tragic accident in Montgomery in December.
A Piedmont Airlines employee (Piedmont is a subsidiary of American Airlines and operates at more than 80 airports) was working ground crew at Montgomery Regional Airport during peak travel time on New Year’s Eve day. American Airlines Flight 3408 had arrived from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The plane, operated by Envoy Air, is an Embraer E175 and was parked at the gate but the engine was running. The victim was “ingested into the engine” of the plane and died.
At the time of this writing, the victim’s name was not released and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had not yet issued reports on how the tragedy occurred.
We know one thing, however: A person died while doing their job, and their family should be entitled to compensation.
Survivors can receive workers’ compensation benefits
If the worker had surviving dependents such as a spouse or children, they can file for survivor benefits from workers’ compensation insurance.
The survivors may be paid up to 66 ⅔ percent of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage, up to a maximum benefit amount that is set each year. The minimum is $238 per week. These death benefits in Alabama can be paid up to 500 weeks, but they can be stopped if the surviving spouse dies or remarries or if children turn 18. If there is a disabled child, payments end when benefits are exhausted.
The maximum burial allowance in Alabama is $6,500.
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance
The workers’ compensation system is designed to benefit both the employee and the employer.
For the employee, it’s no-fault insurance. Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, you don’t need to prove negligence to receive compensation for an injury. Regardless of whether or not someone was at fault or how the injury occurred, workers’ compensation should provide benefits because it happened at work.
The employee only needs to prove that:
- They were engaged in tasks or duties related to their job at the time they became injured; and
- There is an actual injury; and
- The injury cost money for medical treatment or lost wages.
The other side of this benefits the employer—workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy. Because workers’ compensation benefits provide for the costs to an injured worker, they typically are not permitted to file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer.
However, there are a couple of exceptions. If the worker’s injury or death is the result of willful conduct (in other words, not negligence but rather intentional or knowing wrongdoing) or if the injury is the fault of a third-party (not the employer), then there could be standing for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
In the tragic death of the airline employee, it’s possible that a third party could be named as a defendant in a lawsuit. For example, if the death is because of a malfunction with the plane, the family could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the plane manufacturer. This could yield a higher amount of damages than workers’ compensation benefits because the demand could include damages for the mental distress of the family members, loss of consortium, and punitive damages.
Handling a tragic death in the workplace
The circumstances of this airline employee’s death are shocking, but any workplace fatality is a tragedy.
Every person is entitled to go to work and return home safely and in the same condition they were in when they arrived. But we know that accidents happen and injuries and deaths occur every day in workplaces across the country.
That’s why it’s important to understand who to call and what to do if the unimaginable happens to your family. Nothing can bring back a loved one’s life, but an Alabama personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer can help you to receive financial relief—so finances are one less burden for you to bear.