Work Injury Lawyer in San Antonio Explains How to Seek Compensation When Injured on the Job
Were you injured in a work site accident when, for example, the scaffolding you were on suddenly collapsed, you were hit by a forklift, or injured on an oil field by a well blow out? Even if Texas’s Workers’ Compensation law bars you from filing a claim against your employer, an experienced work injury lawyer in San Antonio knows that you are not out of options. Contact Brylak Law to learn more.
Unlike most states, private companies are not required to subscribe to workers’ compensation in Texas. If your employer offers workers’ compensation benefits to its employees, then irrespective of fault, if you sustained injuries on the job while performing your duties, you will receive benefits. The trade-off is that even if your employer is at fault for the accident resulting in your injuries, you cannot file a civil suit against your employer.
If, however, your employer opted out of the workers’ compensation system or has workers’ compensation insurance that is not recognized by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission, then you may file a direct personal injury claim against your employer for negligence.
When Can I Sue My Employer?
As mentioned above, you can sue your employer when they do not carry workers’ compensation insurance. In addition, there are other cases in which you may be able to sue your employer. These include:
- Your employer causes you intentional harm. If your boss punches you in the face, then you can sue your employer regardless of whether or not they carry workers’ compensation coverage. You can also sue your employer if any of their employees intentionally hurt you. Workers’ compensation coverage only covers accident claims.
- A defective product causes your injury. Another thing that workers’ comp may not cover is defective product liability. If you suffer injury by malfunctioning machinery, a broken ladder, or any other type of injury caused by a broken or dangerous product, you can sue your employer for failing to properly warn or train those who used the equipment. You can also sue the manufacturer if their product malfunctions caused the injury.
- A toxic substance causes your injury. Toxic substances left improperly safeguarded can cause serious injuries. Employers are under legal obligation to provide their employees with a safe workplace. This means ensuring that everyone has received proper training and is using the right safety equipment. In some cases, toxic substances will take years, even decades, to manifest adverse medical problems. For instance, asbestos exposure can take years to develop into cancer. In these cases, the employee may sue the employer and the manufacturer of the substance.
Who Is Responsible for a Work-Related Death or Injury?
Winning a work-related injury or tort lawsuit requires that you show the party or parties you have named as defendants are negligent for your injuries. This means that they are either the direct or proximate cause of injuries you have suffered. Negligence has a three-factor test that the courts use to determine liability. This is, did:
- Your employer or a third party owe you a duty of care?
- Your employer or a third party fail in that duty of care?
- Injuries result from that failure?
In any case where the answer to all of those questions is “yes”, you have a successful negligence lawsuit. However, there are certain restrictions to filing lawsuits against your employer in Texas. Below, we will address when you can directly sue an employer who is covered under workers’ comp insurance.
Understanding the “Grand Bargain”
Workers’ compensation protects workers who suffer injuries on the job. It doesn’t matter if they are responsible for their injuries or if their employer is to blame. In other words, workers’ comp is a “no-fault” system where an employee only needs to show that their injury occurred due to a work-related task. This covers them for medical expenses and a percentage of their wages during that period. As a trade-off, their employer is immune from certain kinds of tort liability.
This means that the law bars workers (under the majority of situations) from directly suing an employer who carries workers’ compensation insurance. This is known as the “Grand Bargain.” There are only a couple of instances (outside of those mentioned above) where an employee may assert that their employer was responsible for an injury. These are as follows:
- Gross negligence resulting in death. If the employer’s misconduct or lapse in safety standards is egregious, an employee can sue them directly.
- An injury was inevitable. In cases where an employee can show that an employer’s lapse in safety standards led to inevitable injury, an employee may directly sue their employer.
In both cases, you will need to prove that your employer operated an unsafe working environment. This will require that you establish what safety regulations were being violated. You must also establish what your employer could have done differently to avoid them. The key will be showing that serious injury or death was an inevitable result of lapses in safety standards.
Potential Third Parties at Fault
Irrespective of whether your employer provides workers’ compensation benefits, other parties could be at fault for your injuries. These parties may include:
- General contractors
- Manufacturing companies
- Service contractors
For example, the manufacturing company could be held responsible under product liability if the scaffolding that collapsed while you were on it was defective. Another subcontractor who negligently operated the forklift that hit you may be at fault for your injuries. If you are a pipe worker on an oil field who sustained injuries due to a well blowout, you could hold the following parties liable:
- the manufacturing company of the well,
- the owner of the oil field, general contractor, and
- other subcontractors.
Workers’ Compensation and Insurance Claims
Most of those who have applied for workers’ compensation know that, in most cases, it isn’t as simple as filing an accident report. The insurance company that covers you is beholden only to the interests of their policyholder — your employer. They will often deny claims or delay payment in order to avoid paying out on an otherwise valid claim. So long as they can provide a legal reason for not satisfying the claim in the required amount of time, they can deny your claim.
In addition, your employer may attempt to retaliate against you for filing a claim. This is illegal, but not unheard of. In our practice, we have seen a number of employers fire, demote, or cut employees’ hours.
Our job is to ensure that you can recover compensation for your losses. If you are facing pushback from your employer’s insurance company or believe that their negligence would inevitably lead to a major injury on the workplace, Brylak Law can help.
Contact a Work Injury Lawyer San Antonio
If you or someone you know were injured at a work site accident, our knowledgeable personal injury attorneys are here to help. We will evaluate your case and conduct a thorough investigation to discover the parties who could be responsible for your injuries. We will also help you obtain and review your medical records and strategize the best arguments for your case. Seek assistance from a work injury lawyer in San Antonio with Brylak Law today!