Suffering a catastrophic injury at work can have devastating consequences that last for a lifetime. If you’ve been permanently injured in Houston, TX, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses with the help of an experienced catastrophic injury attorney. This would usually entail either a Workers’ Comp claim or a Jones Act claim, and possibly an additional lawsuit. Let’s look at exactly what constitutes a catastrophic workplace injury and the possible routes you have to financial compensation.
Have You Suffered a Catastrophic Injury While Working?
Texas boasts several booming industries that unfortunately have a relatively high rate of workplace injuries due to the hazardous nature of the work. These risky industries include oil and gas, construction, logging, refuse processing, mining, farming, chemical processing, and commercial fishing. If you’ve suffered an injury while performing job-related tasks in one of these work environments, you have a few potential routes to compensation.
If you work inland, you’re likely to be able to file a Workers’ Comp claim, and if you work offshore, you may be able to recover compensation through a Jones Act claim. The process of filing either claim and pursuing adequate compensation is best handled with an experienced attorney by your side, especially if you’re facing significant, life-changing losses resulting from a catastrophic injury.
What Is a Catastrophic Workplace Injury?
A workplace injury is considered catastrophic when the damage to your body is particularly long-lasting or permanent. Examples of potentially catastrophic injuries are traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, neurological damage, severe burns, damaged nerves, amputation, a disfiguring facial injury, or loss of sight or hearing. Chronic illnesses such as mesothelioma, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or leukemia might also be considered catastrophic.
With a catastrophic injury or illness, not only are you facing a lifetime of medical bills, but your capacity to earn a living may be permanently reduced or even destroyed. You’re also likely to be experiencing a great deal of pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, and other serious, long-term losses.
Your No-Fault Routes to Financial Compensation
The primary recourse to financial compensation in these situations will be with a Workers’ Comp claim or a Jones Act claim, both of which are no-fault remedies. No-fault means you have a legal right to receive compensation for your injury, irrespective of who caused the accident. Even if you were entirely responsible for your own injury at work, you’ll still receive benefits for your medical bills and living costs.
Workers’ Comp Claims
If you work inland, as the vast majority of Texan workers do, your employer is likely to have Workers’ Compensation: state-regulated insurance coverage that provides benefits to injured workers. Workers’ Comp typically provides you with lost wages equal to two-thirds of your ordinary weekly wage, capped at $1,111.55 per week in Texas.
With Workers’ Comp, you’ll also receive benefits covering your medical expenses and vocational rehabilitation costs. And most importantly for catastrophically injured workers, you’ll receive ongoing permanent disability benefits. These disability benefits may be capped at 400 weeks unless your injury is categorized as a catastrophic injury, in which case they’ll continue indefinitely.
Jones Act Claims
The Texan maritime industry employs about 56,000 people, including workers on offshore oil rigs, commercial fishing vessels, tug boats, ferries, cruise ships, derricks, and container ships. An injured offshore worker will almost always file for a Jones Act claim. The Jones Act is a federal law rather than an insurance program. It regulates all US maritime commerce and protects the rights of maritime employees.
When a maritime worker becomes injured at work, they can use the Jones Act to claim Maintenance and Cure benefits directly from their employer, no matter who caused the accident. Maintenance benefits cover your living expenses, and Cure benefits cover your medical bills and rehabilitation costs. These Cure benefits will continue until your physician determines that you have reached a stage of “Maximum Medical Improvement.”
Potential Problems With Workers’ Comp and Jones Act Claims
Both Workers’ Comp claims and Jones Act claims pose potential obstacles for catastrophically injured workers. Given how important these benefits will be to your future, it’s wise to hire an attorney right away to strategize and negotiate on your behalf, ensuring you receive the full compensation you deserve.
The Company Doctor May Downplay Your Injuries
It’s likely that your employer or the insurer will seek to save money by disputing the severity of your injury. When you become injured, you may be assigned a doctor by your employer, but this doctor owes their allegiance to the company and might therefore downplay your injury. If the physician refuses to categorize your injury as catastrophic, your benefit payments could later dry up long before your medical bills do.
It’s important to know that with both Workers’ Comp and Jones Act claims, you can choose your own official physician as long as you do so early on in the process. It’s highly advisable to take advantage of this right. Your attorney can help you to find an independent doctor in Houston, TX, including specialist healthcare providers if you need them. With your own physician, you’re more likely to gain an honest assessment of the severity of your injury.
Your Employer May Offer Insufficient Living Expenses
Your employer or the insurance provider may also seek to pay as little in living expense benefits as possible. Rather than agreeing to their first offer, always carefully calculate how much you have a right to receive and seek the maximum amount. With an in-depth understanding of the relevant laws, your attorney can help you calculate and negotiate this figure.
You May Make Mistakes That Devalue Your Claim
Two of the biggest mistakes injured workers make are failing to collect evidence and not obeying their doctors’ orders to the letter. After a catastrophic injury, it’s likely that you were rushed to the hospital. If so, you probably lost the opportunity to take photos of the hazardous work conditions. Nevertheless, as soon as you can, try to have somebody else take photos of the accident scene and contact any eyewitnesses who saw your accident.
Also, when receiving treatment, always follow your doctor’s orders precisely, including all follow-up visits, prescriptions, and rehabilitation activities. Any failure to do so may be used as evidence by your employer that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim them to be. Two further errors to avoid are failing to report the accident immediately to your employer and admitting to liability for your injury when filing your report. This latter mistake could hinder a potential lawsuit.
Your Benefits May Not Cover Your Total Damages
The benefits provided by both Workers’ Comp and Jones Act claims can be rather limited, especially as they don’t provide non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment in life, and so on. With a Jones Act claim, you may be able to file an additional lawsuit against your employer to recover these non-economic damages, provided that your employer contributed to your accident by negligently allowing hazardous conditions to develop in the workplace.
With a Workers’ Comp claim, it’s harder to file a lawsuit directly against your employer in addition to Workers’ Compensation. But you may be able to file a third-party lawsuit against an equipment manufacturer or a coworker, as long as that third party contributed to your injuries with their negligence.
How a Catastrophic Injury Attorney in Houston, TX, Can Help
When you hire an experienced attorney to fight your corner, they can evaluate your case and inform you of all your legal options. Your attorney can help you to avoid making mistakes during the filing process and negotiate with your employer or the insurer to maximize the value of your benefits. They can also prepare and file a lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court if necessary.
If you need a catastrophic injury attorney to help maximize your benefits, contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner today at (713) 222-7211 for a free consultation. As one of the longest-standing law firms in Texas, our seasoned workplace injury attorneys can fight hard to win you the full and fair compensation you deserve.