According to an Economic News Release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on December 16, 2020, the number of fatal work injuries increased in 2019. The report indicates a two percent increase in the number of worker deaths from 2018 to 2019. Except for 2016, the number of worker deaths has increased in the United States since 2015.

Key Findings for 2019 Fatal Occupational Injuries

A work-related accident or injury claimed the life of a worker every 99 minutes during 2019. There were 5,333 fatal occupational injuries reported during 2019. That total is the largest number of worker fatalities in a single year since 2007. 

Other key findings included:

  • The number of deaths among employees 55 years old and older (2,005) increased by eight percent, which was the largest number on record for this age group. This age group accounted for 38 percent of deaths in the workplace. 
  • Sales workers and truck drivers had the highest number of fatal occupational injuries since 2003, with 1,005 deaths.
  • The private construction industry experienced a five percent increase in worker fatalities, the most deaths in a single year since 2007.
  • The number of deaths for Latino and Hispanic employees increased by 13 percent to 1,088 fatalities. This group made up 20 percent of the workplace fatalities in 2019.
  • Workplace fatalities caused by unintentional overdose (313) and suicides (307) increased just slightly in 2019.

In addition to examining work-related deaths by the above demographics, the report also reviews some changes based on the fatal event or exposure that caused the work fatality. 

The number of work-related fatalities from transportation incidents was the highest that it has been since 2011. The number of deaths from transportation incidents increased by two percent to 2,122 cases in 2019. These incidents accounted for the largest share of workplace fatalities. 

Exposure to harmful environments and substances had the highest number of deaths since they began keeping records for this category. Six hundred forty-two (642) workers died in 2019 in this category. 

Deaths from slips, trips, and falls increased by 11 percent to 880 deaths in 2019. 

There was some good news for 2019. The number of work-related fatalities from expositions and fires decreased by 14 percent in 2019.

Changes in Work Fatalities Based on Occupation

Many occupations also saw record-high numbers of work-related deaths in 2019.

Approximately 20 percent of the work-related deaths in 2019 were truck drivers or driver/sales workers. The number of grounds maintenance workers (229) who died in 2019 was the largest since records began in 2003. The number of worker deaths in extraction and construction occupations (1,066) increased by six percent, the highest number since 2007. 

Two occupations saw a decrease in the number of work-related deaths in 2019. The number of fatal injuries to law enforcement workers fell by 24 percent. The deaths of resident military personnel fell by 21 percent in 2019.

Even though worker deaths in the United States have decreased overall from 38 fatalities a day in 1970 to 15 per day in 2019, work accidents continue to claim the lives of thousands of employees each year.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers many work-related fatalities. Families can file for death benefits under Georgia’s worker’s compensation system. However, workers’ compensation benefits do not begin to compensate a family for the loss of a loved one.

Some families may have a claim for additional compensation against the employer or a third party for a work-related fatality.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim for a Work Accident

In most cases, family members cannot sue an employer for a work accident covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, if the employer was grossly negligent or intentionally caused an employee’s death, the family may be able to sue the employer under Georgia’s wrongful death statute.

Likewise, if a third party was responsible for causing the worker’s death, the family may file a claim against the at-fault party. For example, if a worker is killed in a traffic accident on the job caused by another driver, the other driver might be liable for damages under a wrongful death claim. 

Another example would be a worker who dies because of an injury caused by a defective product. The product’s manufacturer might be liable for damages. 

Families of deceased workers may have one or more actions they can file to recover compensation for damages. An Atlanta personal injury lawyer can review the case to determine who is liable for the worker’s death and what causes of action need to be filed to protect the family’s legal rights. 

A monetary award cannot bring back a family member, but it can provide for the family’s financial needs as they continue to heal after the loss of a loved one.