If you live and work in Texas, you -- like other employees throughout the country -- may not give much thought to the type and level of workers compensation coverage purchased by your employer. However, Texas is one of several states that permits employers to opt out of a state workers compensation program, giving employees injured on the job little recourse for the pain and expense of their treatment. If you're injured at work and your employer hasn't purchased workers compensation insurance, you could find yourself out of luck when it comes to claiming lost wages and medical expenses. A recent court decision could strip these rights even further. Read on to learn more about these changes and what you should do if you find yourself injured in a working environment that doesn't offer workers compensation coverage.
What Texas workers compensation laws have recently changed?
Texas employers have been able to opt out of purchasing workers compensation coverage for years without penalty. This differs from many other states, which require employers with more than a certain number of employees to purchase workers compensation insurance through one of a number of state-sponsored plans. In these states, an employer's failure to purchase or carry adequate workers comp coverage could subject it to fines and other civil penalties, in addition to damages from a potential personal injury lawsuit. In Texas, an employee's only recompense is through the courts in a personal injury action -- and now, this ability has also been limited.
The Texas Supreme Court recently set a precedent preventing anyone injured while working in a hazardous situation (and whose employer didn't have workers compensation coverage) from suing the employer for personal injury. Instead, these employees must file a "negligence" lawsuit and hope that the judge or jury awards the same level of compensation that might have been available through a personal injury lawsuit.
What are your options if your employer has refused to purchase workers compensation insurance?
If you regularly work in hazardous conditions caused by your employer's negligence, and your employer is one that has opted out of the workers compensation program, you may want to find a new job -- your financial future could be at risk. While you're looking, you'll want to bring any dangerous conditions to your employer's attention, preferably in writing. For example, if your employer fails to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, like hard hats and safety goggles, you may want to write a letter or email to your supervisor requesting adequate PPE with details on the ways the current PPE is lacking (or nonexistent). This will bolster any later case you or your coworkers may have, and help demonstrate your employer's clear negligence in creating a safe work environment for employees.
If you've already been injured, your only option to recover damages from your employer is to file a lawsuit alleging negligence. You'll want to consult with an experienced workers compensation and personal injury attorney, as this claim was somewhat rare before the recent Texas Supreme Court opinion. Your attorney will help you gather evidence of your employer's negligence in allowing your injury, including interviews or testimony from coworkers or those who witnessed your accident, personnel records, and other documentation that will establish that your employer knew (or should have known) of a clearly dangerous condition. You'll also need to provide information about your lost wages, medical expenses, and other out of pocket or lifestyle costs. The more negligent or reckless your employer's behavior can be shown to be, the higher your potential judgment, as you could also be granted punitive damages.
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13 July 2015
Getting hurt while on the job can leave you in pain and without an income for some time afterward, but that doesn't mean that you have to start going to the food banks to make ends meet. Working with a lawyer to file a personal injury case (if the injury was due to neglect by another party) is a great way to get compensation you deserve for lost work, and to get your medical bills paid so you don't have to pay out of pocket for high deductibles. This website was built with love to provide you with up-to-date information you can use when working with a lawyer, filing paperwork, and dealing with all of the hoops and red tape of your personal injury case. Hopefully you can find the support you need right here.