Death on the Job: What Family Members Need to Know About Louisiana Workplace Fatalities

Published by The Pellegrin Firm September 9, 2019

When a loved one dies on the job, it is common to experience grief, resentment, worry, and confusion. Louisiana has thousands of jobs in chemical plants, in the oil and gas industry, in construction, and on vessels. These are very strenuous jobs that pay well. However, they can also be very dangerous. For those left behind that are financially dependent on the deceased, there is worry and concern over how to replace lost income coming into the family. Louisiana workplace deaths affect people of all ages, including those who are too young to have saved a lot of money or who may not have considered buying life insurance.

The legal landscape in this area can be very confusing. What people commonly believe about compensation for workplace deaths is not always true.


For those who die on vessels and are classified as Jones Act seamen, survivors are not entitled to a particular schedule of benefits. They have to put together a case explaining how they were harmed, how the deceased suffered before death, and how the vessel owner was negligent. Making a case for loss of support is difficult in these cases, and those who weren’t financially dependent on the deceased will face challenges in recovering loss of support damages. The vessel owner’s and/or employer’s insurance company will often offer the family of the deceased some money, but because there is no specified schedule of benefits in the law, hiring a lawyer and filing suit is usually required to get full value for what was lost.

Injuries  Covered by Louisiana Workers’ Compensation:

Louisiana workers’ compensation death benefits are available for deceased workers who die in the course and scope of employment in Louisiana. The family of the deceased must show that the death was due to an accident or an occupational disease in order to recover benefits. Louisiana workers’ compensation laws may cover a person who dies on the job out of state if they were hired in Louisiana. Depending on the state, the family of the deceased may seek benefits in Louisiana or the state where the person died. Depending on the state, Louisiana’s benefits may or may not be more generous. An attorney can help to research this. People who die on vessels, longshoremen, and federal employees will generally not be covered by Louisiana workers’ compensation law, but by another body of law.

The worker’s compensation death benefits stated in Louisiana law are the only recovery allowed against the deceased employee’s employer. These benefits are payable no matter who was at fault for the death, and there are no additional damages due from the employer and its workers’ compensation carrier if the employer or a co-worker was negligent in causing the accident. Just because the employer is fined by OSHA or some other agency due to the death, this does not increase the amount due to the survivors.

If the workers’ comp carrier accepts the claim as payable and begins the required death benefits, there is not a tremendous amount an attorney can do to make a difference in the amount recovered. Because the benefits are fixed by law, insurance companies usually pay what is required. However, an attorney should be consulted if there is a dispute over whether the accident is a covered loss under workers’ compensation, whether a survivor is actually due death benefits (disputes over financial dependency), or whether a proposed settlement is fair.

Death benefits are based on the average weekly wage of the deceased. Death benefits available are capped at $688 total per week as of 2019 but this usually changes based on the average weekly wage statewide during the year of the death.

If there is a surviving spouse only, he or she is entitled to 32.5% of the average weekly wage of the deceased at the time of death. Upon remarriage, the surviving spouse receives a lump sum benefit of two years’ worth of benefits then payment stops.

If there is a surviving spouse and one dependent child, they receive a combined 46.25% of the average weekly wage.

If there is a surviving spouse and two or more children, they receive 65 % of the average weekly wage.

If there is no surviving spouse but one dependent child, he or she is entitled to 32.5%. Two children split  45.25% of the average weekly wage. Three children split 65%.

If the employee has no surviving spouse or dependents, adult children receive $75,000 to split among them. If there are no dependents or adult children, the employee’s parents receive $75,000 each.

Third Parties:

Recovery against non-employer third parties that may be responsible or partially responsible for the death is governed by regular tort law. These third parties could include manufacturers of products involved in the death, negligent property owners (other than the employer) of the property where the death occurred, and employees of other companies responsible for the death. These parties rarely pay anything (or anything fair) without a lawyer getting involved. There are myriad legal defenses these third parties try to use to avoid paying anything, and the issues can be extremely complex.