In Texas, the employer has a general duty to provide a safe working environment for its employees that can include such things as proper equipment, proper training and sufficient personnel for the job. Many of the employers in Texas supply workers compensation insurance to provide money to pay for medical bills and lost wages for an injured employee and these employers are called “subscribers”.
Other employers may choose to forgo providing workers compensation insurance coverage for their employees. These employers are called “nonsubscribers”. Generally, if an employee is injured on the job and the company carries workers compensation insurance (subscriber), the employee’s remedies against the company for the injury will be limited to the workers compensation benefits. The good news is workers compensation is pretty good about paying medical bills and the bad news is the pain-and-suffering component and disability are pitiful at best.
A Texas employer who is a nonsubscriber to the workers compensation program takes the risk that if an employee is injured on the job the employee then will have a legal right to pursue the employer in court for the employer’s negligence in causing the injury and damages. Sometimes, having the right to pursue the employer and being able to collect from the employer for a very serious injury can be two different things as very seldom are on-the-job injuries caused soley by the employer covered by insurance other than workers comp.
“One factor that should be considered when analyzing a serious workplace injury is the potential for a “third party claim”. The third-party claim can arise when a workplace injury is caused by the fault of a party other than the employer or their employees. Examples would be a construction site accident where the accident was caused by another contractor or company, or situations where a dangerous product was a cause of the injury. In effect, third-party claims are situations where other companies share responsibility for causing the victims injuries or damages.
It is important with serious injuries that the victim learn immediately whether or not the worker is covered by workers compensation insurance and if any other potential companies are responsible for causing the accident.This information can be key in deciding what remedies and options are available to an injury victim from a workplace accident.
Many construction accidents involve numerous contractors and entities and who actually controlled the work being done at the time and the work site is an important factor in the legal analysis necessary after an on-the-job injury at a construction site. OSHA frequently will investigate a very serious injury or fatality that occurred on the job. Unfortunately, OSHA generally allows companies who are guilty of safety violations that led to an accident to enter into a plea agreement such that the plea agreement itself is inadmissible in a civil case. While this is a great disservice to the personal injury victim, or a victim’s family, it is probably necessary given the inadequate funding that has been a longtime problem of OSHA.
Worker safety should be a priority with all employers and certainly with the entities that regulate safety in Texas. We all know of the terrible tragic explosion and West, Texas and the failures of the authorities in Texas to regulate unsafe conduct has become clear in that case.
Many political leaders routinely cite bumper sticker slogans such as “excessive regulation”; they are the first to decry situation such as explosion in West, Texas. The hypocrisy of the anti-regulation crowd is a sad statement for our selection of political leaders.