As the California workforce grows, so does the number of serious and fatal workplace injuries. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health says that all workplace accidents are preventable, and it is the responsibility of employers to provide safe work environments. They must also comply with safety standards, failing which might lead to third-party cases in which employers are accused of negligence.

When employers or other third-parties are found to have been grossly negligent in incidents that caused workplace fatalities, they might even face criminal charges. In one California case in 2012, a construction worker died in a caved-in trench. He was buried alive when the walls of a 12-foot trench collapsed.

Investigators learned that a building inspector issued a stop-work order because several rainy days compromised the stability of the trench walls. However, the contractor disregarded the order and sent a 38-year-old worker into the excavation. The trench collapsed, and the worker died. In 2014, the construction company owner and its project manager were indicted by a grand jury on involuntary manslaughter charges.

The surviving family members of deceased workplace accident victims in California might have questions about their legal options. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can explain their rights and also determine whether there are grounds for third-party cases. Civil claims might be viable, regardless of whether the employer or other third-party is also criminally charged. While workers’ compensation death benefits typically cover only end-of-life expenses and lost wages, a monetary judgment in a civil claim could cover other economic and noneconomic damages.