3 Ways to Avoid a Wrongful Death Claim in Small Business

Running a small business is difficult. There are so many things to keep up with, even if you delegate the majority of tasks, you still inherit a mountain of responsibility. Part of that responsibility includes the lives of those who work for you.

It’s not a topic anyone enjoys considering, but at some point, you will have to develop plans and policies that ensure the safety of you, your customers, and your employees. If these uncertainties are not tended to, death could knock at the door of one or more of your staff.

Along with the devastating grief it would cause the family of the passed worker or customer and your business, it’s possible that a wrongful death claim might be filed against your business in the following months. This would add insult to injury and could possibly cost you dearly. Below are three things that could lead to a wrongful death suit and what you can do to help avoid them.  


Negligence, in terms of a wrongful death claim, is defined as a failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. When proving negligence in a court of law, you must prove that there was a well-communicated expectation for a certain duty to be accomplished and that the negligence of said duty led to the death of the employee or customer.

For example, say you are the owner of a small auto mechanics shop. A common duty would be to clean up any oil spills. Unfortunately, one afternoon, an employee saw an oil spill and decided to wait to clean it up after lunch. While he was settling in for a bite to eat, a co-worker slipped on the spill on the way into work his shift and hit his head on the car that caused the leak.

This caused irreparable damage to his brain and the employee passed. It is a case like this that would qualify as negligence. This could have been prevented with simple diligence in completing assigned duties. Make sure to remind employees on a regular basis to keep up with their regular duties and to be on the lookout, in general, for situations that may be unsafe.  


If a death is caused by the recklessness of another then a decision was made without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action. In any business, you run the risk of having to endure the case of the disgruntled employee from time to time. For the case in hand, let’s say you are the owner of a small diner.

During the lunch rush, one of your employees comes to work late and and sharply disagrees with the way you handled it. In their showy display of anger, they knock a co-worker into the fry vats. As a result, the heavily burned co-worker later dies from her injuries. In this situation, it was the reckless behavior of the disgruntled employee that caused the wrongful death.

There are a few things you can do to prevent something like this from happening. First, make sure to duly screen each and every new employee. This screening should include questions about how they would handle highly emotionally charged situations. Second, include training for each employee on safety measures in the workplace and how to best diffuse tense situations.


The last description is self-explanatory. To cause the death of another staff member or customer through actions that clearly state your intention to do bodily harm or worse is not only cause for a wrongful death claim but criminal. The best way to thwart this situation before it happens is to perform background checks on all new hires.

Those in management should also be trained to spot psychological warning signs, as well. An “if you see something, say something” campaign should be put in place, otherwise. This gives employees an open door to anonymously report events to management that could cause a dangerous situation in the future if not handled.

Wrongful death claims are no joy for any side involved. With the information above, you can help make sure there is never a need to consider them in your small business.