Death in the Workplace

If death occurs while the decedent was on the job, the right to sue may change. Under Michigan's Worker's Disability Compensation Act, an employee is limited to remedies furnished within the Act. M.C.L. § 418.131. Under specific circumstances an employee can reject worker's compensation coverage, but this option is extremely limited. M.C.L. § 418.161(2)(4). Under Michigan law, an employer is liable for injuries resulting in death for specified amounts and specified periods of time, which both depend on the decedent's surviving spouse or children. M.C.L. § 418.321. A worker who elects to take worker's disablility compensation does not have a right to sue his or her employer for injuries sustained in the workplace, unless the injury is the result of an intentional tort by the employer. If the decedent accepts worker's disability compensation and gives up his or her right to sue, beneficiaries or surviving relatives also cannot sue for wrongful death. M.C.L. § 418.131.

If a person's death on the job was due to the negligent actions of a third party, however, Michigans's worker's compensation statute allows dependents to pursue a wrongful death suit against the third party, regardless of whether the decedent's spouse or personal representative is also pursuing compensation under the Act. M.C.L. § 418.827. In Michigan, an action for wrongful death under the Worker's Compensation Act must be brought within two years and notice must be provided to the employer within 90 days of the accident. M.C.L. § 418.381.


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