Workers in the many chemical plants and refineries of Texas face significant health risks on a daily basis. If you’ve suffered an injury while performing work-related tasks in a chemical plant in Houston, TX, you have the right to pursue financial compensation for your medical bills, reduced capacity to work, and other losses. An experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate the damages resulting from your chemical plant injury and help you understand your rights and routes to fair compensation.
Were You Injured in a Chemical Plant Accident?
Texas boasts the world’s largest petrochemical cluster, which employs over 100,000 workers. The petrochemical industry in Houston alone accounts for 42% of the nation’s entire capacity. The many chemical plants and refineries connected to this booming industry are fantastic for the state’s economy but also pose a variety of safety risks to the workers and nearby residents.
The numerous volatile, toxic chemicals and gases must be stored and processed under stringent safety and maintenance protocols, lest they leak, spill, or even explode. And yet, it’s an unfortunate fact that plant operators often take shortcuts with training, safety, infrastructure, or maintenance, often with catastrophic consequences for workers.
Common Types of Chemical Plant Injury
Respiratory problems from inhaling toxic fumes or smoke from a fire are a very real threat in chemical plants, potentially causing suffocation in the worst cases. Severe internal burns to the lungs or disfiguring surface skin burns are common results of chemical leaks or spills. Prolonged exposure to certain hazardous substances can cause cancer, neurological damage, blood disorders, and reproductive issues.
Chemical plant workers also face the threat of physical accidents, such as falls or being crushed by malfunctioning heavy machinery or struck by falling or flying objects. Electrocution is also a hazard. The most dangerous of all is the threat of explosions, which often result in death. If you’ve suffered any of these accidents or injuries, you’re likely to be facing long-term or permanent injuries with mounting medical bills, lost ability to work, emotional distress, and other serious losses.
How To Pursue Financial Compensation
When injured at work in Texas, your route to compensation will largely depend on whether your employer has workers’ compensation. In Texas, this amounts to over 70% of employers. Depending on the circumstances of your accident and injury, you may also be able to seek compensation through a lawsuit.
Workers’ Compensation in Houston, TX
The majority of chemical plant accidents are covered by workers’ compensation. The advantage of workers’ comp is that it’s a no-fault remedy, meaning the injured worker is paid benefits irrespective of who was responsible for the accident. Workers’ comp typically covers living costs, medical expenses, and disability benefits in the case of catastrophic injuries.
When making a workers’ comp claim, you may face problems with the employer or insurer. Employers dislike seeing their premiums rise as a result of new claims, and insurers dislike paying out any money at all. If you believe that you’re being offered inadequate living or medical expenses, it’s important to speak to a personal injury lawyer immediately. Your lawyer can ensure you receive proper medical care while holding all parties fully accountable.
Additional Damages With Third-Party Lawsuits
Another disadvantage of workers’ comp is that once a claim is made, you won’t be able to file an additional claim or lawsuit against your employer, even if they caused your injury by allowing hazardous conditions at the chemical plant. Also, workers’ comp benefits are somewhat limited when compared to most personal injury claims. They don’t make you whole for non-economic losses, for example, such as pain and suffering, emotional anguish, or loss of enjoyment in life.
However, you may have the option of filing a third-party lawsuit against another party apart from your employer. If a defective piece of equipment or safety gear malfunctioned, resulting in your injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. You may also pursue litigation against any negligent coworkers responsible for your accident.
What If Your Employer Doesn’t Have Worker’s Comp?
If your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation, then you may pursue a workplace injury claim with their insurance provider or a lawsuit directly against the company. Provided that your employer caused your injury by negligently allowing hazardous work conditions to exist, you may have a right to full damages from them: economic, non-economic, and perhaps even punitive.
Common Damages in Chemical Plant Cases
Depending on the circumstances of your accident and routes to compensation, you may have a right to varying damages. Most commonly, injured workers pursue economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages. In the case of a disability or long-term injury, you may also seek damages for future medical expenses and lost capacity to earn a living.
Your attorney may also advise you to seek non-economic damages. These are losses you’ve suffered with less of an objective monetary value, such as physical pain and suffering, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment in life. Punitive damages may also be applicable if your employer or a third party caused your accident through reckless negligence or willful wrongdoing.
Loss of Consortium Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
In the tragic case of a workplace death, which chemical plant releases, leaks, spills, or explosions sometimes cause, the surviving family members of the deceased workers have avenues to compensation for their losses. Workers’ comp provides survivor benefits and a wrongful death claim or lawsuit may recover funeral costs, medical bills, and also damages for the loss of support, companionship, and affection that were associated with the lost relationship.
What To Do After a Chemical Plant Accident
Directly following any kind of accident at your chemical plant or refinery, inform your supervisor and seek medical care. Don’t delay seeing a doctor: when it comes to toxic chemicals or gases, symptoms of injuries and illnesses may not be immediately apparent. Also, seeking immediate medical treatment will later prove the connection between any injury and the accident, should the employer or insurer decide to dispute your claim.
It’s almost always wise to find your own doctor rather than opting for the company doctor who may seek to downplay your injuries for the sake of the company. Follow your new doctor’s instructions precisely, including taking any recommended rest and medicine and attending all follow-up appointments.
When To Speak to a Personal Injury Lawyer
The best thing you can do following an accident is to speak to an experienced local workplace injury attorney; sooner rather than later. Your attorney can help you to understand your rights and prevent you from making errors early on in the claims process that might easily reduce the value of your compensation.
If you speak to an attorney in the immediate aftermath of an accident, they can inform you of your rights and launch their own independent investigation into the accident. Your attorney can communicate with your employer and the insurer on your behalf, establish the full value of your damages, gather evidence to prove the facts of the accident and negotiate hard to recover the full and fair financial recovery you deserve.
Contact Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner today to have an experienced chemical plant injury lawyer fighting your corner. Since 1951, our highly skilled and passionate attorneys have been fighting to defend the rights of injured workers in Houston, TX, and we can do the same for you as well.