Unlike other states in the US, Texas has a unique set of workers compensation laws. These laws mean that no employers are obligated to carry workers compensation insurance by default – they can choose whether they want to or not. This has an impact on your ability to collect workers compensation benefits or sue your employer in the event of a workplace injury.
If you have suffered from a work-related accident – whether you work in an office, a warehouse, or anywhere else – you need to know how workers compensation laws work in order to take the right type of legal action to recover compensation that is appropriate for your circumstances.
That is why you need an experienced lawyer by your side, like the ones who make up the team at our law firm. Here at Abraham Watkins, our workers comp lawyer team has been fighting for the financial justice of workers for more than 70 combined years. We have the skills, experience, and compassion to maximize the compensation you could be owed and make your legal journey as painless as possible.
It all starts with a free consultation with a workplace injury lawyer. Our lines are always open, and every free case evaluation takes place at no obligation and is entirely confidential under the attorney-client relationship.
Call us today at 713-535-9319 to find out how we can help you maximize your workers compensation claim or raise a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.
What Constitutes a Workplace Injury?
Texas workers compensation law defines a workplace injury as any injury or illness that occurs in the scope of your employment. This includes some situations that take place outside of your place of employment, for example, if an injury should occur during work-related travel.
Generally speaking, fault is not considered when determining whether or not something counts as a work-related injury. However, fault and negligence can impact how your personal injury claim unfolds, but we will go into more detail on that later.
Common Workplace Injuries in Texas
The following is a list of common work-related injuries seen by our Houston work injury lawyer team:
- Repetitive strain and motion injuries
- Injuries caused by overexertion
- Injuries caused by falling objects
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Injuries caused by a lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Accidents due to automated technology
This is not an exhaustive list of work-related injury types. As there are countless different types of workplaces and jobs, each one will carry its own risks of injury.
If you are unsure whether or not you are able to raise a workers comp claim, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer to find out for sure. Our law firm offers everyone a free case evaluation at no obligation to find out whether they could be entitled to compensation.
How a Workers Compensation Claim Works if You are an Independent Contractor
If you are an independent contractor, you may not be entitled to make a workers compensation claim.
However, this depends on how your contract works. Many employers attempt to deny workers comp claims for their contractors when they are, in fact, entitled to the claim.
Signs that an Independent Contractor May Claim for Workers Comp
You are likely to be entitled to a workers comp claim as an independent contractor if:
- You work for just one employer
- You have your hours set by the employer
- You are controlled/directed by the employer
- You are based at the employer’s site
Signs that an Independent Contractor May Not Claim for Workers Comp
However, if the following points are true, it is likely you are not entitled to make a workers comp claim:
- You set your own hours
- You work for multiple businesses or companies
- You work from your own office/place of work
- You work independently or autonomously
- You take responsibility for the costs associated with the job yourself
If you are unclear on whether you can seek compensation through workers comp, the best path is to talk to a personal injury lawyer about your situation.
We are happy to offer you a free consultation with an experienced attorney at your convenience, free of obligation and covered by a confidential relationship between you and your lawyer.
A Texas Workplace Does Not Have to Carry Workers Comp Insurance
The way Texas’ workers compensation system works is unique in the United States. Your employer is under no obligation to carry workers compensation insurance.
However, it can actually be good news for the monetary value of your personal injury case if your employer does not carry insurance. This is because personal injury claims have more types of damages available to them than workers compensation benefits do.
How to Find Out if Your Employer Carries Workers Compensation Insurance
In theory, finding out whether or not your employer carries workers compensation should be easy. This is because they are obligated by law to tell you.
However, it probably will not surprise you to find out that many employers attempt to break the law to avoid the costs associated with a workplace injury. If this is the case and your employer is not being forthright, your lawyer can help you get the information you need.
Alternatively, you can call the Texas Department of Insurance-Workers’ Compensation to find out if your employer is enrolled.
Usually, You Cannot Sue Your Employer if They Carry Workers Comp Insurance
The way the Texas workers comp system works means that, in most cases, you are unable to sue your employer if they offer workers comp insurance. It does not matter if you accept workers compensation, as long as they offer it, they are usually not able to be sued.
This means that in most workplace injury cases where your employer carries workers comp, you will need to accept workers compensation in order to receive money for your injuries. However, there are some examples, which we will cover in the next sections.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit for Intentional Harm
You are able to sue your employer if your work-related injury was due to intentional harm by your employer. This is true whether or not your employer carries workers compensation insurance.
In order to qualify for this type of personal injury lawsuit, the intentional injury must be committed by someone who is a ‘vice principal’ in the company – essentially, somebody who is high up enough in the company to be responsible for firing employees.
However, you will still most likely need the assistance of a high-quality attorney to do this. That is because you will need to file a personal injury lawsuit and prove that the injury was caused intentionally, and not the employer’s negligence or carelessness.
Filing a Lawsuit Against a Third Party
Just because you were injured at work, that does not mean you may only be able to sue your employer. If an injury occurred due to the fault of a third party, the injured worker may sue them instead.
Common situations where injured employees are able to sue a third party include:
- When a negligent driver causes an accident during work time
- When a defect with a tool, machinery, or other automated technology causes an injury, and this is the fault of the manufacturer
- When negligence on the part of a property owner who is not your employer causes the accident. For example, a slip and trip fall that happens on another premises during a callout
Your Family May be Able to Sue Your Employer in Cases of a Fatality
Although it is not a situation many people will want to think about, a personal injury lawsuit may be raised by the family of an employee when a workplace injury occurs due to gross negligence that leads to death.
In these circumstances, your family would be able to sue your employer for being grossly negligent even if they carry workers compensation insurance. It is important to note this would still be a civil lawsuit taking place in a civil court, rather than a criminal lawsuit for manslaughter, for example. These personal injury lawsuits usually center around wrongful death claims and survival claims.
The Types of Damages Covered by Texas Workers Compensation Benefits
Unfortunately, not all of the damages usually available to those making personal injury claims are available in workers compensation cases. Pain and suffering damages, for example, are exclusive to lawsuits.
Injured workers will usually be entitled to the following damages under the workers comp system, as long as they apply in their specific injury case.
One of the leading causes of bankruptcy in America today is due to the astronomical cost of medical treatment. Thankfully, the cost of medical treatment is covered by workers compensation benefits.
Things do not always go smoothly when making a workers compensation claim, so you make sure to retain all of your medical bills as proof of the cost of your treatment. It can also be helpful to get a copy of your medical records, as some insurance companies may attempt to blame the long-term consequences of severe injuries on pre-existing conditions.
If you had a serious injury occur, it is likely that you will need to spend some time off work recovering before you can come back. Often this happens based on your doctor’s advice.
Workers comp includes provisions for these lost wages, which should pay you for the time you were unable to attend work due to being injured on the job.
If you were injured on the job and this led to a permanent disability, your workers compensation benefits should also provide compensation for this.
In addition to this, it is possible that you may be able to secure additional compensation through government benefits, such as social security disability insurance. Your lawyer will be able to help you maximize your chances of achieving both of these – you can find out how by calling us today for a free consultation.
The Types of Damages Exclusive to Personal Injury Lawsuits
The following damages will only be available to you if you take your employer to court, or if they settle before the court date. Unfortunately, they are impossible to claim for using workers compensation.
Pain and Suffering Damages
This is the largest difference between workers compensation claims and lawsuits. Only lawsuits allow you access to potential pain and suffering damages.
Pain and suffering damages work much like the name would suggest. They calculate an amount of compensation based on the length of your recovery process, the pain level involved throughout, and whether you suffered any life-altering consequences, such as a disability, disfigurement, or other permanent impairment.
Although much less common in workplace injury cases, property damage may sometimes come into things. However, these damages can only be recouped by a lawsuit.
A common example of when property damage compensation comes into a workplace injury is if you were involved in an accident with a negligent driver. You would then be able to claim for property damage to your vehicle in the ensuing lawsuit.
How to Approach the Workers Compensation Process
In order to successfully file a workers compensation claim, you will need to undertake the following process.
First, seek medical attention for your injuries. Not only will this keep you safe, as some injuries are dangerous without the danger being immediately apparent. It will also act as proof for your workers compensation claim that you are taking the accident seriously.
Next, issue a formal accident report within a window of 30 days of being injured. Outside of this timeframe, your employer is not obligated to provide workers compensation.
After that, contact the DWC and submit an Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease form, which is also known as a DWC Form-041.
Ideally, you should also secure legal counsel by an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. This is because your claim may be denied or challenged, or your employer or their insurance company may play any number of tricks to devalue your claim. High-quality law firms are able to help protect you from all of these.
Speak to our Team of Houston Work Injury Lawyers
If you have been injured at work, whether you are planning to follow the workers compensation process or raise a lawsuit, one of our lawyers can help maximize the compensation you could be owed and ensure your case goes as smoothly as possible.
We have over 70 years of experience tackling at-work injury claims and navigating the unique Texas laws surrounding workplace injuries. We will fight tirelessly to secure you the financial recovery you deserve, whether that is through ensuring you maximize your disability benefits, helping you settle your lawsuit outside of court, or convincing a jury of your employer’s negligence.
It all starts with a free evaluation over the telephone. Our lines are open 24/7 for you to call at your convenience. Your evaluation will be at no obligation and all of your sensitive or confidential information will be secure under the attorney-client relationship. On top of that, your case will be entirely no win no fee. You will not pay a cent unless you are successful, in which case your fees will only be taken as a percentage of your final settlement.
To find out more about how the professional help of our lawyers could maximize your chances of compensation, call us today at 713-535-9319.