In cases where an employee with no dependents is killed in a work-related accident, relatives in many jurisdictions face a paradox. They can’t pursue recovery for death benefits under workers’ compensation law because the law only allows dependents to collect these payments. On the other hand, they also can’t file a tort action against the employer because of the exclusive remedy principle.
There have been various challenges to the exclusive remedy provision of workers’ compensation law, most recently in Florida where the 11th Circuit in Miami-Dade found it unconstitutional because the remedies are inferior to those surviving relatives could obtain in a tort action. However, this case didn’t directly address the fact that some persons who might otherwise be able to pursue recovery in a tort (as the personal representatives of a decedent’s estate) might not be allowed to seek worker’s compensation benefits as a non-dependent.