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Employers' criminal liability in an employee death

New Jersey families of people who have died on the job might be interested to learn that employers may be criminally liable if the person's death was the result of health and safety laws being willfully violated. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, a person may be fined up to $250,000 and spend up to six months in jail while a corporation can be fined as much as $500,000. Furthermore, it may be possible to prosecute some OSH Act violations using other laws such as those against perjury and environmental laws.

However, it will be necessary to prove that the employer's actions were willful under the definition of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This would mean that either the violation was committed with plain indifference or was knowingly committed.

Even if there is not a death, there could be significant civil penalties. An employer will not face criminal charges if there is not a death, and such prosecutions are rare even when an employee is killed on the job. From 1970 through 2015, fewer than 90 people were prosecuted in such cases.

An individual who is injured on the job may be eligible for workers' compensation although it may also mean the worker gives up the right to file a lawsuit against an employer. However, workers' compensation can be important in helping a worker and their family recover financially from an on-the-job injury or illness. Furthermore, most workers are entitled to compensation unlike a civil suit in which an individual may have to prove their case. An individual who has been injured or who becomes ill on the job might want to talk to an attorney about their options and how they might proceed.

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