Suffering a workplace injury in Houston, TX can involve a great deal of stress and uncertainty. You may have a right to compensation either with a Worker’s Comp or Jones Act claim. Whichever type of benefits apply to your situation, a workplace injury lawyer can help ensure that you understand your rights in full and receive maximum compensation for your losses.
What Are Your Rights After a Workplace Injury in Houston, TX?
Some of the largest industries in Texas are also the most hazardous and prone to workplace injuries. Anyone working in construction, oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, transportation, or commercial fishing faces a higher risk of accident and injury than workers in most other industries.
Fortunately, the rights of injured workers are protected by state and federal law, provided that you were injured while carrying out a work-related task. Your rights and route to compensation will largely depend on whether you work inland or offshore on an oil rig or seagoing vessel.
Your Rights With a Workers’ Comp Claim
Most inland employers in Texas have Workers’ Compensation: a state-regulated insurance program that provides certain benefits to injured workers no matter who was at fault for the accident. When you become injured and file a Workers’ Comp claim with your employer, you may receive financial compensation for your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and losses resulting from permanent disability.
You may also receive lost wages for missed work while you’re recovering. This will typically be a weekly stipend that amounts to two-thirds of your ordinary weekly pay prior to the accident. In Texas, this weekly lost-income compensation is currently capped at $1,111.55 per week.
You Have a Right To Choose Your Own Doctor
When you first report your injury, your employer or the insurance company will usually assign you to a doctor. It’s important to know that you can choose your own official doctor as long as you do so within ten days of the accident; this is often a wise decision.
The insurer will issue medical expense payments based on the reported evaluation of your official doctor. But if you’re treated by a doctor recommended by the company, that doctor may have loyalties to the company and be incentivized to minimize your injuries, thereby minimizing the cost of your treatment. If you choose your own doctor, their priority will only be to provide the best treatment possible.
What If You’re Offered Insufficient Compensation?
You may be dissatisfied with the compensation offered by the Workers’ Comp insurer. In this case, you have a right to reject it and pursue a larger settlement. You can even file a lawsuit if litigation is the only way to recover full and fair compensation for your losses.
A workplace injury lawyer can help you understand whether or not your Workers’ Comp payouts and benefits are the best you have a right to receive. They can also help you file the necessary paperwork, negotiate on your behalf, and file a lawsuit if necessary.
Seeking Additional Damages With Third-Party Lawsuits
For the most part, Workers’ Comp limits damages to economic losses: medical costs, lost wages, and disability benefits for reduced long-term capacity to work. Unlike other types of personal injury claims, Workers’ Comp makes it difficult to seek further non-economic damages such as emotional distress, physical pain, or loss of enjoyment in life.
However, in some circumstances, you may file a separate third-party lawsuit against a negligent co-worker or the manufacturer of a defective product. This third-party lawsuit wouldn’t face the same limitations as a Workers’ Comp claim and may help you recover additional economic damages plus non-economic and even punitive damages.
What If Your Employer Doesn’t Have Workers’ Comp?
Texas is the only state where private corporations are not required by law to have Workers’ Comp insurance. As a result, about 28% of businesses in Texas are “non-subscribers.” Your employer is legally required to inform you whether or not they have Workers’ Comp.
If you’ve sustained an injury while working for a “non-subscriber” employer, you have a right to sue your employer directly. With a workplace injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, disability, and also additional non-economic and punitive damages.
Your Rights With a Jones Act Claim
With over 56,000 offshore workers, Texas has the third-largest maritime industry in the country. If you work on a fishing vessel, tug boat, container ship, ferry, cruise ship, derrick, drill barge, oil rig, or any other offshore watercraft or platform, your rights when injured will almost always be governed by the Jones Act instead of Workers’ Comp.
Whereas Workers’ Comp is a state-run insurance program, the Jones Act is a federal statute protecting the rights of all US seamen and maritime workers. Jones Act benefits are also a no-fault remedy: your employer is legally required to provide compensation, no matter who was responsible for the accident.
You May File a Maintenance and Cure Claim
Under the Jones Act, upon sustaining a work-related injury, you may file a Maintenance and Cure Claim with your employer. The maintenance portion of the claim covers money to pay for your costs of living while you recover from your injury or illness. The amount you receive should be equal to what it would cost you to live on land at the same standard of living as you lived at sea.
You also have a right to receive the costs of your medical care in full from your employer. These medical care payments should continue until you’ve reached a point of “Maximum Medical Cure,” which is determined by the doctor. As with Workers’ Comp, you have a right to choose your own doctor, and it’s wise to exercise this right as the company doctor may have a bias in favor of your employer.
Seeking a Settlement Under the Jones Act
If your employer caused your injury through their negligence, such as allowing hazardous working conditions to develop, you may be able to seek greater compensation with a lawsuit or out-of-court settlement. By threatening or filing a lawsuit, you may recover larger economic damages, plus non-economic and punitive damages.
To successfully win a settlement, you’ll need to prove your employer’s liability for your injuries. This will usually require a skillful workplace injury attorney with expertise in maritime law.
How a Workplace Injury Lawyer Can Defend Your Rights
Whether you’re seeking compensation for a workplace injury under the Jones Act or Workers’ Compensation, your employer or the insurer may attempt to avoid paying full compensation. The initial payments offered in these cases are often less than fair because injured workers often don’t fully understand their rights and don’t seek legal counsel.
Sometimes employers or insurers refuse to pay any compensation at all on the claimed grounds that the worker’s injuries were pre-existing or sustained outside of ordinary work-related tasks. If you find any such objection to your claim, or you simply wish to understand your full rights, don’t hesitate to contact a local workplace injury lawyer. With an experienced attorney by your side, you’re far more likely to receive the money you deserve.
If you’ve suffered a workplace injury in Houston, TX, contact Abraham Watkins today at (713) 222-7211 for a free consultation. We’re one of the longest-standing law firms in Texas, and you can count on our experienced attorneys to fight for your rights to full and fair financial compensation.