Fatal Work Accident Claims

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If a spouse, parent or someone you're dependent on has passed away in a fatal work accident in Queensland due to the negligence or fault of another party, you may be looking for assistance with claiming compensation.

This straightforward guide aims to help you understand the intricacies of claiming compensation, including the rights to compensation, common causes of fatal work accidents, an overview of the claims process, frequently asked questions, and time limits for making a claim specific to Queensland. 

Smith's Lawyers team of personal injury claim experts offers free initial advice and no-obligation appointments at home, in the hospital, in-office, or via phone. All claims have no upfront costs or risks of being left out of pocket under our No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise. We operate Queensland-wide.

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Understanding Your Rights After a Fatal Work Accident in Queensland

When experiencing the devastating loss of a loved one or family member due to a fatal work accident in Queensland, it's important you understand your legal rights. If negligence is at play, you may be entitled to a compensation payout.

WorkCover Queensland Statutory Benefits

  • Who's Eligible: Dependents of the deceased worker (spouse, children, other financially dependent individuals).
  • What it Covers:some text
    • Funeral expenses
    • Weekly payments to dependents
    • Lump sum payments to dependents
    • Medical expenses related to the injury
    • Counselling services for those affected

Common Law Damages Claim

  • Who's Eligible: Dependents and potentially the deceased worker's estate.
  • When to Pursue: If the employer's negligence directly caused the fatal work accident.
  • What it Covers:some text
    • Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death
    • Loss of financial support for dependents
    • Loss of services the deceased provided (household tasks, childcare, etc.)
    • Expenses resulting from the death (including funeral costs)

How Claims Work in Queensland

Proving employer negligence is crucial for a common law claim. This often requires thorough investigations.

In some cases, you may be able to pursue a combined claim of both the WorkCover benefits AND a common law claim for additional compensation.

Common Causes of Fatal Work Accidents

Workplace accidents can occur due to a wide range of circumstances. Regardless of how they happen, the consequences of a worker's death can be devasting for their families - especially where there are dependent children.

Some of the most common causes include: 

  • Falls: In 2022, Queensland had the second-highest number of fall fatalities in Australia. Employers could be liable for a wrongful death claim where the incident was due to a lack of proper safety measures.
  • Heavy Machinery Accidents: Incorrect usage or malfunctioning of heavy machinery could lead to a fatal injury. Employers are responsible for regular maintenance, proper training and supervision. Where they fail to do this, their dependents could be entitled to claim compensation.
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: In 2021, 38 percent of workers who died on the job in Australia were involved in a vehicle collision. The longer workers spend on the road, the higher the risk of fatal accidents. These can be avoided through strict adherence to road rules, proper operator training and the use of safety gear where necessary.
  • Electrocution: Especially in construction and trades work, exposure to live wires can cause fatal electrical shocks. Wrongful death claims may arise where an employer has failed to provide the relevant safety equipment or appropriate inspections.
  • Exposure to Harmful Substances: Workers in industries dealing with toxic substances could face a workplace accident that leads to death if these chemicals are not properly managed. Strong protocols for handling hazardous substances and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment are necessary.

If you think your loved one suffered a wrongful death due to their employer's negligence, then you could be entitled to a compensation claim. This could help with things like funeral expenses or care for a dependent child. 

Personal injury lawyers, like the team at Smith's Lawyers, can help you understand your options with a free case review.

Workers Most at Risk of Fatal Work Accidents

Some Australian industries carry a higher risk of death than others. Although the law does provide some protection by setting health and safety requirements, accidents do happen. Especially where an employer or someone else has acted negligently. 

Some of the industries at the highest risk include: 

  • Construction: Labourers and trades that work on construction sites are exposed to numerous safety hazards due to the nature of their work. In fact, the construction industry accounts for nearly 20 percent of all work-related deaths in Queensland. Such conditions can lead to fatal accidents like falls from heights, electrocutions and being struck by falling objects.
  • Mining: Mining is known as one of the most dangerous industries in the world. The risk of a fatal workplace accident is high due to potential cave-ins, exposure to hazardous gases and accidents with explosive materials.
  • Transportation: Workers in the transportation industry, especially truck drivers, face a high risk of road accidents. They often work long hours, which can lead to fatigue and increase the likelihood of fatal work incidents.
  • Agriculture: Workers on farms face risks from machinery mishaps, animal-related injuries and harmful chemical exposure. Such hazards can result in severe and, in the worst cases, fatal accidents.
  • Manufacturing: Factory workers are often in close proximity to heavy machinery and hazardous materials. Inadequate training or safety measures can result in fatal accidents.

Where an incident results in a deceased worker, their family might have the right to make a fatal work accident claim. If you believe your loved one died at work because of someone else's fault, you should speak to a solicitor who can offer advice on your next steps.

How a Fatal Work Accident May Impact You as a Dependent

Whether it's your husband, wife, or you were in a de facto relationship, when a loved one suffers from a fatal work accident, the impact can be devasting. Two significant aspects of your life that are often heavily affected include your financial stability and mental well-being.

  • Financial Instability: An unfortunate guarantee with losing a loved one is the sudden loss of their income, causing immediate financial hardship. You may be unable to maintain your current standard of living, pay for important expenses like housing and utilities or meet other essential financial commitments. Moreover, you may face unexpected costs relating to the accident, like hospital bills and funeral expenses, which can compound the financial hardship.
  • Psychological Damage: Alongside financial challenges, losing a loved one in a work accident often causes significant emotional and psychological distress. This can manifest as symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and prolonged grief disorder. In many instances, if you've suffered psychological injury, you could require long-term therapy or counselling.

The law considered nervous shock claims in a similar way to personal injury ones. That means the process can often be quite complex. The expert team at Smith's Lawyers offer a free case review to help you understand your options.

To check your compensation entitlements, request a free case review with our expert lawyers.

Understanding the Compensation Claims Process

Navigating the compensation claims process after a fatal work accident can seem daunting. In addition to legislation, such as the Workers Compensation Act, many of the rules around the process exist in common law through judgements from the Supreme Court. 

To help you understand your claim, we've created a general guide that outlines each step. Remember, each claim is unique, and your case might involve more or fewer steps. 

Below is an outline of the steps involved: 

1. Seek Free Initial Legal Advice

The first step is to get in touch with a law firm that specialises in compensation claims for fatal accidents. Such a firm will have the necessary expertise and understanding of the complexities of Queensland law and can confirm your legal options, including eligibility to make a claim.

2. Engage A Personal Injury Lawyer

After an initial phone assessment, the next stage is a no-obligation consultation to explain the process and client agreement in more detail and to gather initial key information relating to the accident to help assess your case and your injury and identify the liable party. The client agreement will also be explained so you can understand the terms under which the personal injury law operates. Smith’s Lawyers runs all claims risk-free with no upfront costs.

3. Gather Evidence To Build Your Case

Once the compensation matter is opened, you will be allocated a personal injury lawyer who will start gathering the required evidence to build a strong case and determine liability. This may include medical reports, accident reports, witness statements, CCTV or dashcam footage from the victim's accident. 

4. File Your Claim

Your personal injury solicitor will lodge a notice of claim and negotiate on your behalf with the liable parties, typically with their insurance companies (or their legal representatives). 

5. Negotiate With The At-Fault Party's Insurer

Negotiations with the insurance company aim to reach a fair settlement that covers funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Most cases are settled out of court in a compulsory conference, an office-based meeting involving yourself, your personal injury solicitor and a barrister they have engaged in leading the negotiations along with the legal representatives of the at-fault party's insurer. 

In the unlikely event that a settlement cannot be negotiated out of court, proceedings can proceed to court. In most ‘no win, no fee’ agreements, you could be liable for the other side's legal costs if your case is unsuccessful in court. Smith’s Lawyers No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise protects you from this risk and means you can not be out of pocket.

6. Settlement Payment

If your claim is successful, you will receive a lump-sum tax-free compensation settlement. The amount received will depend on different factors concerning the victim's accident. Legal fees are charged for the work completed only if there is a successful outcome.

Seek expert advice ASAP: Remember, each case is unique, and the process can vary based on the specifics. It's suggested to seek professional legal advice and have your case reviewed by an expert team to guide you in this journey. Smith's Lawyers are experts in personal injury claims and offer a Queensland-wide service with free initial advice to get you started in your claim process.

What Evidence Do I Need to Support My Claim?

Putting together a successful claim will require as much relevant documentation as you can gather. The evidence is vital to establish liability and to quantify the amount of compensation you are entitled to. Some of the kinds of evidence you'd want to include are: 

  • Witness Testimonies: Statements from witnesses can help establish the circumstances surrounding the accident. These testimonies provide an objective perspective on how the incident occurred and that the deceased person died as a result of the negligent party's actions.
  • Medical Records: As well as the death certificate, if your loved one was treated in hospital, you'll want to show how the injuries sustained led to their death. 
  • Proof of Accident: You should keep any physical evidence related to the accident, such as photos, videos and damaged property. Moreover, official documents like police reports, workplace incident reports and medical records are crucial in proving that the accident happened and was the cause of the death.
  • Expense Details: Keep track of any expenses related to the incident. This may include medical bills, reasonable funeral expenses, lost wages and loss of potential future earnings. Ensure to keep receipts or bank statements as proof.
  • Evidence of Dependency and Psychological Impact: You may need to provide proof, such as your marriage certificate, that you were financially or emotionally dependent on the victim. Documents, like bank statements or utility bills, can show financial dependency. Psychological reports can demonstrate the emotional toll of losing a loved one.

It's important to keep all potential evidence safe and organised. This will help you and your lawyer present the strongest possible case for compensation. Our dedicated team at Smith’s Lawyers can provide more information and guide you through this process of gathering and presenting evidence.

Calculating Your Compensation Amount

If your loved ones dies on the job, compensation for a fatal work accident is calculated by taking into account various factors. These primarily revolve around the financial losses and emotional distress experienced by their dependents. It can also be impacted heavily by the role, age, pre-existing medical conditions and any contributory negligence. Compensation aims to support dependents through an incredibly difficult time whether that be weekly payments or a lump sum.

Some areas the court will consider are:  

  • Funeral and Medical Costs: If the victim was hospitalised before passing away, medical bills and funeral expenses become an additional burden on the family. These costs are compensated as part of the claims process.
  • Pain and Suffering: The emotional distress and heartache following a fatal work accident is immense. Financial compensation, while not eliminating the grief, may help to alleviate some of the financial pressure.
  • Psychological Care: If the accident causes distress for the dependents, they may need psychological treatment or counselling. The cost of these services can be factored into the compensation.

As each claim of compensation is unique there's no limit to the factors courts will consider. A case can get even more difficult if other things come into play such as the victim's employer having insurance that provides death benefits. 

Speaking to a personal injury solicitor can help you understand your options and what steps you may wish to take.

Time Limits for Fatal Work Accident Claims in Queensland

In the aftermath of a tragic work accident, it's important to understand that there is a time limit on how long you have to claim. The general rule is that claims need to be submitted within three years from the date of the accident, but bear in mind that specific circumstances can impact this timeframe.

For work-related accidents in Queensland:

  • You have six months to lodge your claim with WorkCover. The six-month period begins whenever the incident takes place. 
  • You have three years to commence legal proceedings for a common law claim. If the victim's employer or a third party caused or contributed to the death of the victim, this can be run alongside a standard WorkCover claim.

For motor vehicle-related injuries in Queensland:

  • You have nine months from the date of the accident to lodge a Notice of Accident Claim Form (known as a 'NOAC') with the Compulsory Third Party Insurer (CTP Insurer). A “reasonable excuse for delay” can be provided outside the nine months but must be within three years of the accident, or you will be barred from making a claim. 
  • Or, you have one month from when you first consult with a lawyer about the possibility of making a claim to lodge the form. When running a claim with Smith’s Lawyers, your appointed solicitor will help you complete and submit this form.  Note: This time limit is the earlier of the two (one month vs nine months), so if you have spoken to a lawyer about your potential claim, you must lodge the NOAC within 1 month.
  • Where the motor vehicle at fault cannot be identified (such as in a hit and run), or the vehicle was unregistered, you have three months from the date of the accident to lodge a Notice of Accident Claim form with the Nominal Defendant. For these claims, if you have missed the three-month period, a reasonable excuse can be provided, but it must be provided within the standard nine-month limit; otherwise, you will be barred from making a claim.
  • After the Notice of Claim Form is lodged, you have three years from the date of the accident to start legal proceedings.

These limits can fluctuate based on specific circumstances, such as exceptional delays in discovering the accident.

At Smith's Lawyers, we offer free and no-obligation case reviews to aid you in understanding your legal rights after the death of a loved one. Operating on a No Win, No Fee, No Catch® basis, we aim to provide risk-free legal assistance and advocate for your right to proper compensation.

Are there any upfront costs or risks?

No; our No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise at Smith’s Lawyers means there are no upfront costs, and you can never be left out of pocket as a result of the claim. Typically with ‘no win, no fee’ agreements, you could still be liable for the other side's legal costs if your case goes to court and is unsuccessful. In the unlikely event that your case goes to court and you are unsuccessful, we'll cover the costs - so you won't pay a cent to us or anyone else.

To check your compensation entitlements, request a free case review with our expert lawyers.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What role does a personal injury lawyer play in my compensation claim?

A personal injury lawyer, such as those on the team at Smith's Lawyers, is integral in navigating the often complex process of filing a fatal work accident compensation claim. They manage the whole process for you, from providing initial free legal advice, helping to collect and organise evidence, filing the claim, to negotiating a settlement with the at-fault party. They're experienced in interpreting and applying the law to get the best outcome for you and your family. 

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Are there any factors that could influence my compensation amount?

Several factors can influence the amount of compensation you may receive. This includes the physical and psychological injuries sustained, the extent of financial loss incurred, your relationship to the deceased, their job role, age, income level and any pre-existing conditions they may have had.

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Can the compensation claim be made if the fatal accident didn't happen at the place of work but during work hours?

Yes, a compensation claim can be lodged under Workers' Compensation if the fatal accident occurred during work hours or while performing work-related duties, even if it wasn’t at the physical workplace. Again, a personal injury lawyer can guide you through the specifics of your case.

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Get expert advice today

To check your compensation entitlements, request a free case review with our expert lawyers. We can explain your options to Fatal Work Accident claims so you are clear on your rights during this difficult time.

Take our 2-minute free claim check

Fill in the form below to find out if you have a claim.

Last updated:
June 23, 2024

Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For help understanding your rights, please call 1800 960 482 or request a free case review to talk to one of our lawyers today.