If you are an employee working in Texas and get injured on the job, there are laws in place to help you. But these laws can be complex, so it’s important to have a basic understanding of how they work. You don’t want to make any missteps that could jeopardize your right to fair compensation.
If you sustain a work-related injury or illness because of an accident or some other non-deliberate cause, determining whether your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance is crucial.
If your employer does have workers’ compensation coverage, that insurance could compensate you for your medical expenses and lost wages. However, such compensation typically represents only a fraction of your normal pay rate, and you won’t be compensated for your pain and suffering. Also, workers compensation precludes you from suing your employer for failing to maintain safe working conditions. Your injury may cause you pain or other problems for the rest of your life, but the compensation you receive for it is limited.
If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you may be able to seek relief for your injuries in court. If you can show that your injury was the result of your employer’s negligence, compensation may be available not only for your medical expenses and lost wages, but also for your pain and suffering. You may also be entitled to punitive damages that hold your employer accountable for these unsafe working conditions.
Death & Deliberate Acts
In Texas, there are two exceptions to the rule that bars you from seeking additional compensation from an employer who has workers’ compensation coverage. If an at-work accident causes a worker’s death, that worker’s family may be eligible for long-term death benefits. Also, if the injury or illness is the result of a deliberate act by the employer – rather than just an accident or negligence – the employee may be allowed to bring a lawsuit.
Today’s job sites are complex places, often with employees from several different employers working in close proximity. If you are injured on the job due to the negligence of another employer or of one of that employer’s employees, then you may be able to seek compensation in court from that employer.
These types of accidents can happen in many different kinds of scenarios. Too often we read about crane accidents on construction sites, which may result in injuries to employees of various subcontractors. If the accident is the result of the crane operator’s negligence, injured employees of other subcontractors may seek compensation in court from the crane operator’s employer.
But work injuries can also happen in workplaces that aren’t typically thought of as hazardous. For example, if you work in a large office, there’s a good chance the maintenance of that office is outsourced to another company. If you’re injured as a result of improper maintenance – wet floors or a loose stair railing, for example — you may have a claim against the maintenance company. Or, if you are a delivery driver and you are struck by a car driven by an employee of another company, you may be able to seek compensation from that company. Just because you are injured on the job doesn’t mean that your own employer is the only party from which you can recover just compensation.
Sometimes it’s not a person, but faulty or defective equipment that causes workplace injury or illness. If that’s the case, an injured worker could bring a product liability lawsuit against the equipment manufacturer.
Consider, for example, a case in which an employee is injured when a ladder he is standing on at work breaks. The fault may not lie with his employer, but perhaps with the maker of the ladder, which could have made mistakes either in the design or the production of the ladder. This theory of liability could apply to employees injured by any type of product – from powerful manufacturing machinery to a simple office chair.
Similarly, workers injured at work by a toxic substance may have a claim against the maker of that substance. Employees have brought many successful lawsuits for injuries they sustained from exposure to dangerous chemicals such as asbestos and benzene. Currently, there are several pending lawsuits brought by agricultural workers who were sickened after being exposed to pesticides in the field.
Because we spend so many of our waking hours in the workplace, it seems some injuries are inevitable. But you have a right to a safe work environment and, if you are injured on the job, you have the right to be compensated to the fullest extent of the law. So don’t rely on your employer to tell you what compensation you are due. Call a lawyer who knows all your options and can offer a fair assessment of your case.