On the job injuries and deaths occur at a shocking rate in the State of Texas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas has led the nation in workplace injury and deaths in 11 of the past 14 years. While occupational injuries can happen in every industry and to all types of workers, they most-frequently occur in labor-related fields such as construction, manufacturing, excavation, drilling, refining, electrical work, metal work and mining.
Texas is unlike most other states in the country, as its laws do not require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If an employer subscribes to workers’ compensation insurance, an injured employee will have access to various types of compensation after a work-related injury. However, there are strict limits in place concerning those benefits. If the employer does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance, the injured employee will have to explore other options for recovery.
Workers’ Compensation in Texas
Under Texas’ workers’ compensation laws, an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance applies to any injury or illness an employee sustains during job-related duties. Location is generally irrelevant if the employee was performing his or her job-related duties when the injury or illness occurred. For example, a construction worker driving to a jobsite with a supply delivery suffers an injury when another driver hits his truck. In this case, even though the employer had nothing to do with the accident, because the accident occurred while the employee was performing his job-related duties, workers’ compensation would apply.
However, workers’ compensation does not apply if the employee acted outside the scope of his or her employment, engaged in any illegal or intentionally dangerous behavior, or if the accident occurred while the employee was engaged in any off-duty activities. The injured worker must report the injury or illness within 30 days, but it’s a good rule of thumb to report such incidents as soon as possible. Any delay on the injured employee’s part may hurt his or her chances of securing benefits.
Workers’ compensation in Texas offers medical benefits, income benefits, and survivor benefits in the event of a job-related death. Medical benefits will pay for an injured employee’s immediate medical costs after a job-related injury or illness. Income benefits will offer financial assistance while the employee recovers and cannot work. Survivor benefits seek to repay the families of employees who die from job-related illnesses and injuries.
If you were recently injured on the job and are needing to file a claim, chances are pretty good that you’re experiencing a lot of frustration. Depending on the severity of the injury, many workers require light or restricted duties. Other workers are forced to miss multiple days (sometimes months) of work to recover, resulting in lost wages. Some injured workers are never able to return to work. When medical bills associated with a worker’s occupational injuries begin coming in, the combination of both physical and financial strain can cause frustration and uncertainty. This is where an attorney can help.
In the state of Texas, your rights as an injured worker as to what damages you may seek to claim vary greatly depending on whether or not your employer subscribes to state run workers’ compensation insurance (“Workers’ Comp Claims”) or is a non-subscriber to workers compensation insurance (“Non-Subscriber Claims”).
Benefit of Non-Subscriber vs Workers’ Compensation Claims
Workers’ compensation is a state-regulated insurance program that pays the medical bills and replaces a portion of the lost wages if the employee has a work-related injury or illness. If an employer has workers’ compensation insurance, Texas law limits the employer’s liability for work-related injuries. While injured employees may get medical and income benefits set by state law, the subscribing employer has immunity from most lawsuits filed by injured employees.
Employers that are non-subscribers to state regulated workers compensation insurance can be sued for negligently causing injury and death. Employers can also be forced to pay high damage awards if an injured employee can prove in court that the employer was negligent in any way. Under Texas law, a non-subscriber employer can be held responsible for 100% of an injured employees damages even if the employer is able to alledge the employee was arguably 99% at fault for the incident, if proven that the employer was at least 1% at fault.
Texas Workers’ Compensation Insurance is designed to protect employers, not help with the serious bodily injury or death of employees. After a serious work related injury, who is going to give you back the joy and camaraderie of a good game of tennis with a friend, flag football with the kids, hiking in the woods on a crisp fall day, bowling that perfect game, or dancing with someone you love? Who’s going to pay you for the loss of all those things that made your life worth living? If you’re like most people dealing with a serious injury, these are even greater losses than the cost of treatment and the paychecks you lost.
Americans average about 90,000 hours spent at work during a lifetimes. That’s a big part of your life. The American work ethic makes our country great. Everyone who works hard for a living deserves to feel secure on the job. You should expect to return home after a productive day just as healthy and whole as you were when you left in the morning, but workers are injured or killed on the job every day. In a perfect world, this would never happen. But at the very least, if you are one of the unfortunate many with a serious job-related injury or disease, you would hope to receive enough compensation to be able to not only get medical treatment and rehabilitation, and also to cover those damages that you can’t quantify in dollars but that have diminished the quality of your life beyond measure. If your employer is a non-subscriber, you may be able to file a non-subscriber claim against your employer and other responsible parties for your losses.
Even if your employer does subscribe to workers’ compensation, that does not always mean you’re barred from pursuing a lawsuit. Our Dallas work injury attorneys know that there may be other potential parties who may be responsible for a worker’s on-the job injuries. For instance, if an injury is caused by a third party company working with your employer, then damages against the third party company can be pursued in litigation.
Employee Suffers Injury While Employed by a Non-Subscriber
If an employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, the employer is vulnerable to civil actions, including personal injury lawsuits from injured employees. It is up to each employer to decide if workers’ compensation insurance is worth the expense. For some companies, maintaining coverage is much more cost-effective than absorbing liability for injured employees’ lawsuits, while other employers may find that the risk of employee injury is too low to justify the expense of maintaining workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
If you suffered an injury while working for a non-subscribing employer, you would have the option of pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer for your injuries. Filing such a lawsuit is a much more involved and time-consuming process than filing for workers’ compensation. However, it is likely that you could secure the full value of your injury or illness through a personal injury lawsuit.
Some Statistics on Injuries in the Workplace
If you were injured on the job, or if a member of your family died because of an accident or illness caused by some condition in the workplace, you are not alone. Consider these statistics:
- In the United States, around 23,000 workers are injured and 5000 die every day from injuries that occurred on the job. That means that altogether about 8.5 million Americans suffer job-related injuries annually.
- When you add to the fatal injuries number of fatalities caused by work-related illnesses, the total number of deaths totals 53,000 each year.
- More people die in this country because of work-related injuries and diseases than are killed in traffic accidents.
Having a Lawyer on Your Side Can Help
If you’ve been injured or have recently received a diagnosis of an illness that is clearly caused by some condition where you work, it is a good idea to consult an attorney early on. Choose an experienced and well qualified personal injury lawyer who understands non-subscriber law and who offers a free initial consultation. We want you to take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions and learn how the lawyers at Aaron A. Herbert Law Firm can make a difference in the benefits you’ll receive.
These are some important ways a good lawyer can help:
- Ensuring that all paperwork is complete, correct, and has all the supporting medical records attached
- Investigating the accident to determine any and all losses you may be entitle to
- Determining whether your employer or a fellow employee, with deliberate intent, exposed you to an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm
- Determine whether third parties, other than your employer, contributed to your accident. For example: a contractor, vendor, property owner, or manufacturer of defective equipment. Third parties can be sued for both your economic and non-economic damages, making a more fair recovery of money possible.
Workplace Conditions That Threaten Your Health
These are a few of many unsafe conditions that can cause a serious workplace accident:
- Tripping and slipping hazards
- Improperly maintained machinery
- Poor lighting
- Locked or blocked exits
- Exposed or worn electrical wires
- Lack of provide safety gear
- Environmental hazards and toxic substances.
- Non-ergonomic work stations
- OSHA violations
Get the Legal Help You Need for Workplace Injuries in Texas
When you’ve been injured anywhere in Texas, don’t delay. Consult the law firm of Aaron Herbert in Dallas for straightforward answers to all of your questions. Aaron is a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Attorney with 14 years of experience, the highest possible AVVO rating, and 50 trial verdicts under his belt. He is a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum. The consultation is absolutely free, and you will incur no attorney fees, court, or legal expenses unless you recover.