Two Construction Workers Killed at Hotel Site Near Walt Disney World: What Now?
Two Florida-based contractors are facing major fines from OSHA after two workers were tragically killed while working at a Marriott hotel site just outside of Orlando last fall.
Experts believe the deaths might have been prevented had proper safety measures been followed.
While staggering fines like those imposed in this case, which we detail below, can help to hold contractors accountable, what about the families who are left behind? What compensation is available to them?
Let’s look at the law on workers’ compensation for wrongful death in Florida and the options available to family members in the midst of grief.
Worker Deaths Near Disney: What Happened at the J.W. Marriott?
On the morning of August 29, 2018, several workers were pouring concrete at the seventh floor of a J.W. Marriott hotel construction project outside Orlando when their scaffolding support suddenly collapsed beneath them, The Orlando Sentinel reports.
Two of the workers, 34-year-old Loreno Zavala and 46-year-old Jerry Bell, fell more than 80 feet to their deaths.
Another worker managed to hang on and climb to safety, sustaining minor injuries but ultimately surviving. There are conflicting reports about whether a fourth worker might have been injured as well.
The hotel site is located in Lake Buena Vista’s Bonnet Creek resort district, which sits inside the Walt Disney World resort but is not technically on Disney property.
After a prolonged investigation, federal labor officials from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited two contractors servicing the project — PCL Construction Services, Inc. and Universal Engineering Sciences — for various safety violations relating to the deaths, concluding the accident might not have happened had the companies been more responsible.
Specifically, OSHA cited both of the Orlando-based companies for failing to “properly inspect formwork, shoring, working decks and scaffolds on the project prior to construction,” the Orlando Weekly newspaper reports.
PCL was also cited for failure to “design, fabricate, erect, support, and brace the formwork so that it was capable of supporting vertical and lateral loads.”
“Using specified drawings and shoring plans may have prevented these fatalities,” an OSHA director in the Tampa Area Office told reporters.
Altogether, the two companies now face fines totaling $157,792.
The Law on Workers’ Compensation for Wrongful Death in Florida
Under Florida law, if a worker dies due to a work-related accident, injury, or illness, the surviving family members are entitled to recover wrongful death benefits under the Florida workers’ compensation system.
These benefits include:
• Funeral expenses (defined as the actual funeral costs, up to $7,500)
• Weekly payments to the deceased person’s dependents (the amount of the payment depending on the deceased’s wages and the dependent’s relationship to the deceased capped at $150,000.)
• Educational benefits for the surviving spouse (tuition for up to 1,800 hours at a career center or 80 semester hours at a community college)
Generally speaking, the workers’ comp system is the exclusive remedy available to family members of workers who die on the job in Florida. The current cap of $150,000.00 is a an insult to Florida workers and their families.
Thus, our firm investigates every claim for a possible third party negligence action, where the injured worker or deceased workers family can recover wrongful death damages in accord with Florida law. It is in these certain situations, where surviving relatives may have grounds to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit under Florida law. An experienced Florida wrongful death lawyer can help you determine whether you and your family might have a claim outside of workers’ comp.
You Don’t Pay Unless We Get You Money. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.
If you have lost a loved one in a work-related accident in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, or anywhere else in Florida, we encourage you to call our office and talk about your options.
We will not charge you for our services unless and until we get you money, and the initial no-obligation consultation is absolutely free.
Strict time limits do apply to Florida workers’ comp claims, as well as claims for personal injury or wrongful death, so please do not delay.
Schedule a free consultation with a Florida wrongful death lawyer at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC as soon as possible.