Understanding Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims When Workers’ Compensation is Involved

Understanding Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims When Workers’ Compensation is Involved

Losing a loved one or suffering a catastrophic injury from a workplace accident is a devastating experience that can result in tremendous losses. In addition to suffering physically and emotionally, you and your family may find yourselves in a precarious financial situation due to incurring significant medical, funeral, and/or burial expenses, as well as loss of income from being unable to work. To make matters worse, claims involving workplace injuries or death are often complex and challenging to navigate, particularly when workers’ compensation is involved. Understanding when a personal injury or wrongful death claim can be pursued against an employer or third-party alongside workers’ compensation requires a nuanced examination of legal principles and specific case scenarios.

Workers’ Compensation Basics

In cases where an employee is injured on the job, workers’ compensation generally provides benefits to cover the injured worker’s medical expenses and wages from being unable to work. In cases where an employee is fatally injured on the job, workers’ compensation generally provides benefits to the decedent’s dependents to cover funeral expenses and provide some financial support to the surviving family members. Unfortunately, in exchange for providing these benefits, employees and their families typically relinquish their rights to sue the employer for negligent acts that may have caused or contributed to the injury or death of the employee. Essentially, this means that when workers compensation benefits are paid as a result of a work-related injury or death, a civil lawsuit under most circumstances cannot effectively be pursued against the employer.

Exceptions to Workers’ Compensation Exclusivity Rule

While workers’ compensation laws generally shield employers from civil lawsuits related to workplace injuries or death, there are exceptions under which an employee or their family may pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claims against the employer.

One exception to the general rule is the employee’s right to retain his or her common law remedies, including personal injury and wrongful death claims, in lieu of receiving workers compensation benefits. This must generally be done in writing within five days after the employee is hired or the date the employer obtains workers’ compensation insurance coverage for the employee. Second, regardless of whether workers’ compensation benefits are paid, an employer can be sued if their conduct was grossly negligent, and such gross negligence caused or contributed to the death of an employee. Gross negligence typically involves the employer’s reckless disregard for their employees’ safety, such as willfully ignoring safety regulations or failing to address known hazards. Last, if a third party, such as a negligent contractor who does not work directly for the employer or manufacturer of a defective product, causes or contributes to an employee’s injury or death, the injured party or their family may be able file a personal injury work wrongful death claim against that third party while still receiving workers’ compensation benefits from their employer.

Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Claims

Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, personal injury and wrongful death claims seek to recover additional damages beyond what workers’ compensation provides, such as compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and punitive damages, among other damages. Proving a personal injury or wrongful death claim due to the negligence of an employer or third party can be challenging and requires thorough investigation and legal expertise. As a result, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in workplace injury cases to understand your options and be able to pursue the justice and compensation they deserve.

If you or someone you know has suffered a workplace injury or fatality, call the law firm of Abraham Watkins today. At the law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz, & Stogner, we have successfully represented many injured individuals and families who have lost loved ones due to the negligent and careless acts of their employers and third parties. Abraham Watkins is the longest-standing personal injury firm in Texas, and our attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to obtain just compensation for our clients. Call us today at 713-222-7211 or 1-800-870-9584 for your free in person or virtual consultation.