The Latest Updates in Workers’ Compensation Fatality Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an estimated 4,764 fatal work injuries occurred across the country in 2020. Tragically, many of these employees left behind devastated family members who were forced to struggle with mounting medical bills, funeral costs, and the loss of an income, in addition to their grief.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws ensure that the family members of those who lose their lives in workplace accidents will be compensated for medical bills and other losses. Although the state has taken steps to streamline its workers’ compensation claims process, filing a claim can still be time-consuming and difficult, so if you lost a loved as a result of a work injury, please contact a member of our dedicated workers’ compensation legal team to learn more about your legal options.

At-Risk Employees

In its report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also found that based on statistics, employees who are employed in certain industries are especially at risk of sustaining a fatal workplace injury. For instance, railway accidents reportedly accounted for more than one-quarter of fatal occupational-related injuries, while commercial truck drivers suffered the highest incidence of fatal injuries, recording 745 fatal injuries in 2015 alone. Fatal injuries among the following occupations also accounted for a significant number of workplace deaths:

  • Aircraft pilots and engineers;
  • Farmers and agricultural workers;
  • Forestry/fishing occupations;
  • Building and grounds cleaning/maintenance workers;
  • Members of the military;
  • Miners;
  • Oil and gas extraction workers;
  • Warehouse employees;
  • Private transportation employees;
  • Private manufacturers;
  • Government workers; and
  • Refuse and recyclable material collectors.

Those who worked in the private construction industry also proved to be particularly at risk of fatal injuries, as 937 construction workers lost their lives as a result of injuries sustained at work.

Construction Industry Fatalities

Those employed in construction-related positions suffered the highest number of fatalities, especially amongst the following occupations:

  • Specialty trade contractors, including foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors;
  • Construction laborers;
  • Carpenters;
  • Electricians;
  • Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters;
  • Structural iron and steel workers;
  • First-line supervisors;
  • Extraction workers;
  • Roofers;
  • Painters;
  • Operating engineers; and
  • Construction equipment operators.

Although these kinds of employees lost their lives in a variety of situations, the following types of accidents accounted for the highest number of construction-related fatalities:

  • Falls, which were the primary cause of contractor worker fatalities and primarily occurred on roofs, ladders, and scaffolding;
  • Trips and slips;
  • Transportation-related accidents, which resulted in 226 worker deaths in 2015 and usually involved freight hauling and utility trucks, or multi-purpose highway vehicles;
  • Being struck by an object or equipment, such as electric parts and building materials;
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments, which caused 136 worker deaths;
  • Unintentional overdoses from drugs and alcohol;
  • Fatal exposure to electricity;
  • Extreme environmental heat; and
  • Getting caught between equipment, such as aerial and scissor lifts, excavating machinery, road grading and surfacing machinery, and cranes.

Of these types of accidents, four are known for being especially deadly, including: falls, being struck by objects, electrocutions, and getting caught in between objects. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) refers to these causes as the Fatal Four because they are responsible for around 64% of all construction-related deaths. According to the BLS, there was an increase in construction worker fatalities for each of the Fatal Four in 2015.


The types of injuries resulting in construction-related deaths usually fall under one of the following categories:


  • Heat stress, leading to brain, heart, and kidney damage;
  • Exposure to dangerous levels of lead;
  • Chronic dust disease and other respiratory diseases, such as asbestosis;
  • Burns;
  • Electrocution;
  • Amputation and severe blood loss;
  • Traumatic brain injury; and
  • Toxic exposure to chemicals.

Some of these injuries do not manifest immediately or do not cause sudden death. For instance, a construction worker who inhaled asbestos over a 20-year construction career may not begin exhibiting symptoms until years after he or she retires. A fall from a great height, on the other hand, could cause injuries that are immediately life threatening, such as a traumatic brain injury, a broken spine, or organ damage. In either case, treatment can quickly drive a victim and his or her family into debt, as they may be required to foot the bill for multiple surgeries and medications. Tragically, even drastic life saving measures are not always enough to prevent an employee’s untimely death, leaving the victim’s family to struggle with paying medical bills and household expenses, which can be extremely difficult for those who were supported by a single income. To learn more about collecting compensation for these and other losses, please call us today.

Death Benefits

When Pennsylvania employees lose their lives after being hurt on the job, their surviving dependents may be able to collect death benefits, which include compensation for:

  • Medical expenses related to the decedent’s last illness or injury, such as surgery, medication, and emergency transportation;
  • Reasonable funeral/burial costs; and
  • Weekly compensation payments.

These benefits are payable to the decedent’s surviving spouse and minor children. However, if a decedent is not survived by a spouse or a child, his or her parents or siblings could collect benefits, but only if they were actually dependent upon the employee at the time of death. Surviving spouses are eligible to receive benefits for life unless they remarry. Upon remarriage, the surviving spouse will be paid a lump sum payment equaling 104 weeks of compensation. Children, on the other hand, are eligible to receive death benefits until they turn 18 years old, unless they are enrolled as a full-time student or suffer from a disability.

The amount that a surviving family member receives depends on the decedent’s pre-injury average weekly wage, as well as the status of the individual receiving benefits. For example, a widow or widower would receive 51% of his or her deceased spouse’s wage, while a surviving spouse with one child can collect 60% of the decedent’s wage.

Surviving spouses with more than one child, on the other hand can collect 66% of their loved one’s wage prior to death. A dependent child alone, however, can only collect 32%, with the number increasing for each additional child.

There are situations in which the family of a person who was hurt at work and subsequently lost his or her life as a result will not be eligible for benefits. For example, injuries that are purposely self-inflicted or sustained while breaking the law are not covered.

Finally, surviving family members will only be able to collect death benefits if they file a claim within three years after the date of death. Furthermore, the death must have occurred within 300 weeks of the injury to qualify as work-related and compensable under state law.

Consult with a Dedicated PA Workers’ Comp Attorney Today

If your loved one was fatally injured at work, please contact Krasno Krasno & Onwudinjo at 800-952-9640 to learn more about collecting compensation to cover medical bills, burial costs, and living expenses. No one should have to go through this type of tragedy alone, so if you have questions about your spouse or parent’s untimely work-related death, please do not hesitate to call us at  your earliest convenience.

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