Workplace accidents that result in a person’s death are tragic enough. The loved ones that a worker leaves behind after such an accident may have an even tougher time moving on. After all, the emotional connection that the family had with a worker killed on the job is difficult (if not impossible) to sever. Because of this, it is not uncommon for the loved ones of a person killed in a workplace accident to seek emotional distress damages as part of a wrongful death suit; but could these damages be sought through a workers’ compensation claim?
This was the question posed to the Wyoming Supreme Court after a father witnessed his son being killed in a workplace accident. According to a recent businessinsurance.com report, both father and son were working at a construction site. The father was operating an excavation hoe while his son was working inside a trench. The son was accidentally struck in head by the bucket of the hoe, which led to his death.
The son’s estate received workers’ compensation benefits, but the father sued the construction company seeking emotional distress damages. He alleged that the company negligently inflicted emotional distress upon him.
The construction company filed, and won, a motion to dismiss at the trial court level. The trial court ruled that workers’ compensation was the exclusive remedy for accidents and wrongful death claims. However, the Wyoming Supreme Court disagreed, reasoning that emotional distress is an injury that is separate and distinct from physical injuries.
If you have questions about whether emotional distress is a claim that may be allowed under California’s workers’ compensation code, an experienced attorney can advise you.