The Bayou State: A Not-So-Great Place To Work

According to one metric, which we posted about earlier, Louisiana workplaces are among the safest ones in the country. But according to another survey, the Bayou State is almost literally a deathtrap for workplace injuries.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported that only Arkansas has a higher workplace death rate than Louisiana’s 6.8 incidents per 100,000 workers. In general, most all states in the Southeast have job injury death rates that well exceed the national average, which is 3.8 per 100,000. Motor vehicle crashes and other transportation incidents are the leading cause of workplace death in Louisiana and elsewhere, followed by contact with equipment or objects, workplace violence, falls, and exposure to hazardous substances.

Study authors suggested that more research go into the causes of, and solutions for, fatal workplace injuries.

Compensation for Fatal Workplace Injuries

No amount of money can begin to compensate for the loss of a loved one, but the money available through the workers’ compensation system at least provides a little extra economic security. Since that is one of the biggest reasons the departed loved one went to work every day, that added security is a good way to honor the decedent’s memory.

There are two types of fatal workplace injuries: persons who die almost immediately because of their injuries, and persons who are seriously injured and succumb to their work-related injury or illness within two years. In both these instances, surviving spouses and children typically receive a weekly stipend based on the decedent’s contributions during the past twelve months; if there are no surviving spouses or dependents, each surviving parent usually receives a $75,000 lump sum payment. In all these cases, workers’ compensation also pays all funeral and burial expenses up to $8,500.

Workers’ Compensation System

When these laws first appeared about a hundred years ago, injured workers rather quickly received substantial compensation for their economic losses, thus offsetting the fact that they could not sue for noneconomic damages, because of the “exclusive remedy” doctrine. But over the years, benefits incrementally went down and the time required to process workplace injury claims incrementally went up.

As a result, some victims are challenging workers’ compensation systems. The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a key attorneys’ fee provision was unconstitutional, because it effectively denied victims competent representation in these matters.

Such reform movements have not yet come to Louisiana, because on balance, benefits are sufficient to get workplace injury victims healed and back to work in a reasonable amount of time. But as the Florida case illustrates, only an aggressive attorney gives victims a fair chance when they go up against large insurance companies, whether it is in a negligence trial or at a workers’ compensation hearing.

Employers must pay compensation when their workers are injured or killed on the job. For a free consultation with Lee Hoffoss or another experienced personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. After hours appointments are available.