Houston Workplace Injury Attorney
Every type of workplace poses potential threats to worker health and safety. Some industries are more dangerous than others, but that doesn’t mean injuries can’t occur in an office or a warehouse position. Holding a position in a dangerous industry does not increase or decrease your ability to receive workers’ compensation or pursue a personal injury claim. However, you should stay on your guard and wary of unsafe employment practices and environments. After any type of workplace injury, talk to someone at Brian White & Associates before seeking workers’ compensation. You may want to file a civil claim against your employer or another party.
Workers’ Compensation Laws in Texas
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses occurred in 2015 in the US. This does not include fatal injuries. Workers can sustain injuries in all manner of ways during job-related tasks, from slips and falls to vehicle accidents. Common job-related injuries include falls, struck-by objects, and repetitive motion injuries.
Texas’ workers’ compensation program gives injured workers a means of financial recovery for a portion of lost wages, medical bills, and disability after work-related accident, without needing to prove fault. Workers’ comp may seem like the simplest solution to your workplace injury, but it might not be the best or only choice.
It is important to consider all your options after an injury at work. When you file for workers’ comp, you immediately surrender your right to file a personal injury claim against your employer. This might not be the best choice for workers injured by someone else’s negligence. A personal injury claim might take more time, money, and effort than filing for workers’ comp, but it can typically result in larger compensation awards.
A lawsuit can pay for everything workers’ comp covers, as well as full wage recovery, pain and suffering, lost quality of life, and other intangible losses. If an attorney thinks you have a chance of winning, it might be worthwhile to file a personal injury instead of a workers’ comp claim.
There are situations where you could file for workers’ comp and a personal injury lawsuit. If a third party caused or contributed to your injuries, you can file a claim against this party at the same time as a workers’ comp claim. This is because the law does not bar workers from pursuing recovery from third parties. A third party might be a product manufacturer, coworker, or independent contractor. Third party claims are common in workplace injury lawsuits. The competent team at Brian White & Associates can help you with this type of case in Houston.
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Common On-the-Job Injuries
Work-related injuries can range from pulled muscles to permanent paralysis depending on the circumstances. Some industries are inherently more dangerous than others. The construction industry, for example, makes up one in five worker deaths in the U.S. each year. The Texas workers’ compensation program will reimburse employees for virtually any injury or illness, as long as it occurred on the job.
- Broken Bones. Bone fractures can happen because of slip and fall accidents, vehicle crashes, caught-in/between objects, or acts of violence. A broken bone is a painful injury that can take weeks or months to heal.
- Soft tissue injuries. Muscle sprains and tendon or ligament tears are common injuries in industries that require labor, such as construction or manufacturing. Lifting boxes or making the same repetitive motions can cause temporary or chronic soft-tissue damage.
- Workers can suffer thermal, electrical, chemical, or radiation burns on the job. It is an employer’s job to protect employees from foreseeable risks of burn injuries through proper training and personal protection.
- Electrocutions. Electrocutions are the third most common cause of worker death in the construction industry. They can occur due to lack of communication on a job site or lack of appropriate safety gear.
- Spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord can sustain serious injury in falls, crush injuries, or acts of violence. A permanent spinal cord injury can impact the worker’s ability to move or feel sensation in the body (paralysis).
- Traumatic brain injuries. If a worker experiences a fall or an object striking the head, he or she can suffer a brain injury. Serious brain injuries can cause permanent cognitive and physical disabilities.
- Eye injuries, ear injuries, lacerations, and severed limbs are also common workplace injuries in Texas.
Different injuries will be more common in your work environment depending on your industry. No matter what type of injury or illness you suffered because of your job, seek recovery through workers’ compensation and other outlets with help from an attorney.
Who Is Liable for Workplace Injuries?
You may not need to determine liability for your workplace accident. If you are filing for workers’ compensation, you do not need to prove that someone else caused your injuries. The only burden of proof is to show that the injuries occurred while performing work-related tasks. However, if you wish to seek additional compensation through a third-party lawsuit, you will need to understand the rules of liability for a workplace accident.
- An employer may be liable for a workplace accident if it reasonably should have done something to prevent it. Lack of training, poor safety protocols, and failing to give employees safety equipment are common mistakes employers make that can lead to liability.
- Employers in Texas are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. If a coworker contributed to your injuries, your employer may take the blame. If the person was an independent contractor, however, he or she may be individually liable.
- Product manufacturer. Defective products, tools, and equipment at work can cause serious employee injuries. If the item you were using contained a defect or design flaw, you may have a case against the product manufacturer.
- Property owner. If an environmental defect caused your injury, such as a slip and fall hazard or asbestos in the walls, you could have a third-party claim against the owner of the property. This might be an individual, a company, or the government. The City of Houston could be liable if you were on public property.
Many workplace accident claims name more than one defendant. In Texas, multiple parties could be jointly and separately liable for your damages. Each will have to pay your full compensation award. Understanding who could be legally to blame for your recent accident may take an investigation from an attorney. Working with a lawyer can ensure you hold all responsible parties accountable.
How to Apply for Workers’ Compensation in Texas
Texas is unlike most states when it comes to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation insurance is not mandatory – however, most employers provide these benefits to avoid liability for employee injuries. If your employer has workers’ comp insurance, it should provide this information openly. Your employer should assist you with the claims filing process after a serious accident.
- Report the accident. First, report your workplace accident to a supervisor or manager. You typically must notify your employer within 30 days of the injury. However, exceptions exist: if you do not discover your injury until later (e.g. in a case involving asbestos or mesothelioma), the clock does not start until the date of discovery.
- Go to the doctor. Seek medical care for your injury or illness right away. Your employer will help you get medical care. You may need to choose a doctor within your employer’s workers’ compensation network. Otherwise, you can visit a physician on the list of approved choices by the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
- File your official claim. Once you receive treatment for your injuries, file your official workers’ compensation claim. You can file online, in person, or by mail. Your employer should give you a copy of the claim form upon request. You have one year from the date of your injury to file a claim.
- Wait for a response. Your employer will receive a notice once the Division receives your claim. It will then investigate the case and either accept or deny the claim. The insurance provider may deny your claim if an investigation shows that your injuries occurred from self-harm, intoxication, horseplay, acts of God, or willful criminal acts.
- Appeal the decision. If you do not agree with the Division’s decision to deny your workers’ compensation claim, you may challenge the decision. You will need to attend a benefit review conference and then a hearing with a judge. It will help to hire a lawyer for the appeals process.
If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, you may have to file a personal injury claim for damages instead. Although this process places a greater burden of proof on you and your attorney, the damages you could receive are almost unlimited. Filing a personal injury claim takes going to the civil courts within two years of your injury. Your attorney will need to prove someone else’s negligence caused your accident to receive a settlement or verdict through a personal injury trial.
Damages Available After a Work-Related Injury
Filing for workers’ compensation benefits and/or personal injury damages can lead to important benefits you and your family need to move forward. A successful workers’ compensation claim in Texas can give you financial compensation for past and future expenses.
- Medical benefits. Medical benefits will cover all past and future medical bills relating to workplace injury. This may include surgeries, doctor’s visits, transportation costs, medical devices, disability modifications, medications, and rehabilitation.
- Income benefits. The Division can provide benefits to replace two-thirds lost wages while the worker is in recovery. If the worker cannot return to work, these wage benefits can last for life. If the employee can return to light duty, he or she can receive two-thirds of the difference between past and current wages.
- Death benefits. If you lost a loved one in a work-related accident, workers’ compensation may provide benefits to help you recover the costs of lost wages. Spouses, children, parents, and other dependents may qualify for these benefits.
If you file a personal injury claim, you could also receive compensation for your physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, lost quality of life, loss of consortium, and punitive damages. The value of your case will depend on the unique circumstances surrounding your accident. Speak to one of our workers’ compensation lawyers for an evaluation.
Why Choose a Work Injury Lawyer at Brian White & Associates?
A workplace injury can change your life. It can limit your abilities temporarily or permanently, forcing you to seek work elsewhere or file for disability. It can result in lifelong medical costs, such as live-in care, rehabilitation therapy, and special medical equipment. A traumatic injury such as brain damage or a spinal cord injury can even end in wrongful death. As an injured worker or a loved one, it is within your rights to seek justice through every outlet of the law – workers’ compensation and the civil court system.
The Houston personal injury lawyers at Brian White & Associates have years of experience in workplace injury law in Texas. We know when our clients should pursue workers’ compensation and when they should file for a personal injury claim instead. We may be able to help you receive maximum compensation for your injuries through multiple means. Our team can take over communication with insurance companies and bill collectors on your behalf, so you can focus on healing after a traumatic workplace accident. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.