In Illinois and all other states, a death that occurs while the decedent is at work is included within the state's compensation laws. Workers' compensation will automatically kick in when the employee dies while performing work duties, and that applies regardless of who is at fault in causing the workplace accident. The compensation law provides for the payments of death benefits to the deceased worker's next of kin.
The benefits usually include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, along with the payment to the family of weekly or monthly monetary benefits based on the statutory formula that applies. Under certain circumstances, it may be possible for the family to obtain a lump-sum settlement amount in lieu of receiving weekly or monthly payments. However, that is a risky venture that should not be attempted without the services and consultation of an experienced workers' compensation attorney.
One recent fatal accident in another state demonstrates a few principles regarding the treatment of a work accident. A man who was employed by Ryder Trucks died when he was trying to hook his tractor-trailer truck up with a trailer. Preliminary investigative reports indicate that he failed to engage his truck air brake prior to the task. The truck was on an incline and it rolled back and crushed the worker.
The man's family will collect workers' compensation death benefits from Ryder or its insurer despite that he may have been negligent in not setting his brakes correctly. The twist here is that the accident occurred on the property of a Toyota manufacturing facility. The facility would not normally be involved, but it is conceivable that there was inadequate lighting, lack of signs or warnings, or other circumstances that may attribute some degree of liability to the company. In Illinois and all other states, the employee's estate has no potential action for additional compensation against the employer under these facts. It may, however, have a claim for negligence and additional damages against a non-employer third party if that party is determined to have also been negligent and a substantial cause of the death.