Welding is one of the most important jobs on any construction site, and also one of the most hazardous. Around 560,000 welding accidents occur each year in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of which result in severe or even fatal injuries. If you’ve been injured while welding in Houston, TX, a personal injury attorney can help you recover full and fair compensation. Let’s look at how much you can expect to receive.
How Much Compensation Can You Get From a Welding Accident at Work?
When a welding accident happens, welders often suffer second or third-degree burns from the extreme heat of their tools, spark exposure, or even explosions. The electrical arc circuits that welders frequently use can reach as high as 100 volts, creating the additional risk of electrical shocks.
Damaged eyesight is another unfortunately common welding injury, caused by years of focusing on the bright light of welding sparks and overexposure to UV light. The toxic fumes released by melting metal can cause respiratory diseases as well. If you’ve suffered any such injury while welding at work, you may have a right to a workers’ compensation claim. You might also be able to file an additional personal injury claim against a third party.
How Much Money To Expect From Your Workers’ Compensation
Most employers in Texas have Workers’ Comp coverage, which is an insurance program managed by the State of Texas. Workers’ Comp typically provides compensation for medical expenses to any employee who suffers a work-related illness or injury. It also provides partial compensation for lost wages while your injury prevents you from working.
Lost Wages Compensation
While you’re away from work, Workers’ Comp in Texas will typically pay 70% of your usual average weekly wage (AWW). The AWW will be calculated by looking at the injured welder’s total earnings for at least 13 weeks prior to the accident.
This sum includes all overtime pay, benefits, and allowances you usually receive. In Texas, your weekly compensation for lost income is currently capped at $1,111.55 per week.
Partial Disability Compensation
If your injury isn’t severe enough to keep you away from work entirely, you may be able to work part-time or on lighter-duty tasks until you recover. In these cases, your pay will often be reduced. You may recover partial disability compensation to make up for your reduced ability to earn a living.
Partial disability benefits in Texas are calculated as 70% of the amount by which your weekly income has dropped as a result of your injury. So if you earned $1,000 per week prior to your accident, and you now earn $600 working part-time, your income has dropped by $400. You would receive 70% of $400, which is $280 per week.
Medical Treatment Compensation
Workers’ Comp also covers your expenses for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment. This may include costs for transportation to and from medical providers. Your medical care compensation will continue until the doctor deems that you have reached a point of maximum medical improvement.
Choose Your Own Doctor
Your employer may initially choose the doctor that sees you, but in Texas you may choose your own physician: you have ten days following the accident in which to do so. This is often a wise decision as a company doctor may be incentivized to minimize your injuries in order to save money for the employer or insurer.
If you select your own doctor, they’ll be focused only on providing the best treatment possible. A workers’ comp attorney can help you find a suitable physician, including a specialist medical provider if necessary. Your attorney can also file the necessary paperwork to officially change your treating doctor in a timely manner before the ten-day deadline is up.
Physical Impairment Income Benefits
Once your doctor deems that you’ve reached the point of maximum medical improvement, they’ll determine whether or not you’ve been left with a permanent physical impairment by your injury. An impairment would typically be any restriction in motion in any part of your body. If you have one, the physician will rate your impairment from 1% to 99%, where 1% is lightly impaired and 99% is severely impaired.
You will then continue receiving Impairment Income Benefits for a period of time calculated as three weeks for each percentage point of your impairment. So if the doctor deems your impairment to be 30%, you’ll receive Impairment Income Benefits for the following 90 weeks (30 x 3 = 90 weeks). The amount of money you receive will be calculated in the same way as ordinary lost wages compensation: 70% of your previous AWW (with a weekly cap on Texas of $778).
Supplemental Income Benefits
Once your Workers’ Comp benefits have run out, it may still be possible to receive additional Supplemental Income Benefits. You may be eligible for these benefits if you have a permanent impairment rating of over 15%, you still haven’t returned to your pre-accident income levels, or you meet various other criteria.
How To Maximize Compensation for Welding Accidents
There are certain steps you can take that will strengthen your claim. Always seek immediate medical care after your accident: it’s important to demonstrate that your injuries are real and proven by the doctor’s records. Take photos of the accident scene, or ask a friend or coworker to do it for you, and also take note of any eyewitnesses or surveillance cameras that witnessed the accident. This evidence may prove useful later in your claim or lawsuit.
As previously mentioned, it’s usually best to choose your own doctor. And make sure you follow all doctor’s orders precisely, including attending all follow-up appointments, resting as instructed, and cooperating with vocational rehabilitation programs. It’s safest to assume that your employer or the insurer will investigate you, hoping to catch you slipping up, so they have grounds to dispute your injuries.
How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You in Houston, TX
When welders are injured in welding accidents, there can sometimes be disagreement with the employer over the severity of the injuries, the amount of lost wages compensation, or another aspect of the claim. If you have any such trouble with your claim, don’t hesitate to speak to a Workers’ Comp lawyer, who can clarify your rights and fight to ensure you receive every cent you’re legally due.
Seeking Additional Compensation With a Third-Party Lawsuit
There are times when Workers’ Compensation isn’t enough to fully compensate an injured welder for all the losses they’ve suffered as a result of their injury. While it’s rarely possible to pursue a lawsuit against your employer in addition to a Workers’ Comp claim, you do have a right to file a lawsuit against any third party who caused or contributed to your injury through their own negligence. This might be another worker or possibly an equipment manufacturer.
A personal injury lawsuit would allow you to seek additional compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life. The best way to find out whether or not you can pursue compensation from a third party is to consult with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in work-related accidents. An experienced attorney can investigate your accident and circumstances and clearly explain your full legal options.
If you’d like a personal injury attorney at an award-winning law firm fighting your corner, contact Abraham Watkins at (713) 222-7211 for a free consultation. As one of the longest-standing law firms in Texas, our attorneys have the experience, legal know-how, and dedication to ensure you achieve a favorable financial outcome after suffering your welding injury.