One worker was killed and another seriously hurt at a wrecker service in Amarillo on February 7 when a pickup truck fell from a forklift. The workers had been using the forklift to lift the truck while they worked on it.
It is certainly unsafe to work under cars and trucks that are lifted and supported by a forklift. Unlike a garage lift designed for the purpose, a forklift carrying a vehicle can tip, the weight can shift, or the lift can fail, making it too dangerous to stand and work under the vehicle. Unfortunately, however, some employers do not always provide their employees with the proper tools and facilities to do their jobs safely, and this is not the first time a salvage yard worker has lost his life in this manner.
In Texas, those who are hurt or the families of those who are killed in on-the-job accidents often receive workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault-but not always. Texas is the only state that does not require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
There is a cost to going uninsured, however-workers who provide workers’ compensation insurance generally cannot be sued by injured employees or the families of killed employees, even if the employer was at fault in causing the injury or death. Workers’ compensation benefits are the “exclusive remedy” for the covered worker. Employers who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance (called “nonsubscribers” in legal circles) do not enjoy this protection. In addition, unlike other people or businesses who are sued for negligence, a nonsubscriber sued by an injured employee cannot use the employee’s own negligence as a defense.
However, the families of workers who die on the job due to the fault of the employer may have one remedy beyond workers’ compensation death benefits-the Texas Constitution protects the right of the spouse and children of a person killed due to the intentional conduct or gross negligence of another to bring suit for punitive damages. This sort of action can be brought even against an employer who is covered by workers’ compensation insurance, and ensures that employers who are callous with the safety of their employees can still be held to account.
If you or someone you know have lost a loved one in an on-the-job accident due to unsafe working conditions, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or 800-594-4884.