January 28, 2019

Blog Thumbnail: Houston Injury & Accidents

Texas is the only state that lets companies opt out of carrying workers’ comp insurance coverage. Why companies opt out of workers’ comp in Texas is often for a pretty basic reason. They believe they will save themselves money. These non-subscriber employers know that if they opt out of providing official Texas workers’ comp, they won’t have the state telling them what to do when it comes to providing benefits. By providing their own insurance plan for injured workers, non-subscriber companies can control the benefits employees receive and for how long they receive them. Simply put, they can more easily deny claims or suspend benefits.

For workers, this can often mean they don’t get the adequate medical and wage coverage they need when they’ve been hurt or become ill at work. But there is a silver lining for injured workers of non-subscriber companies. When companies carry official workers’ comp, they cannot be sued by injured employees. It isn’t allowed under the workers’ comp system. However, when companies opt out of providing official Texas workers’ comp, they can be sued when employees are injured due to negligence.

Employers that Opt Out of the Texas Workers’ Comp Program May Try to Hide It

Many non-subscriber employers do not tell their employees directly that they have “opted out” of official Texas worker’s compensation coverage. Why? Maybe they want employees to believe they have official Texas workers’ compensation coverage when they really don’t. They may believe this will help prevent lawsuits against them.

When you’re injured, non-subscriber companies may send you to medical clinics and pay some benefits. You may speak with an insurance adjuster who seems very official. Some employers may even call their private insurance systems “worker’s comp.” But the clinics, doctors, nurses, and the adjusters all answer to your employer, not to state regulators.

It can be confusing for employees to know the difference between workers’ comp and private employer plans. For this reason, it can be advantageous for employees injured on the job to get help from work accident attorneys. A Houston work accident attorney will investigate your employer’s coverage and let you know whether it is real workers’ comp and, if not, whether you may have a case against your employer. You can also sometimes find out if your employer is a non-subscriber by visiting the Texas Department of Insurance website. The site provides lists of non-subscribers and subscribers to official workers’ comp.

Compensation You Could Get from a Non-Subscriber Employer

If your employer is a non-subscriber, in addition to medical and wage replacement benefits, you may be able to get compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Physical impairment
  • Disfigurement (scarring and burns)
  • Loss of future earning capacity.

These non-economic damages are not available under official Texas worker’s compensation. Workers’ comp only provides medical and wage replacement benefits, and death and burial benefits.

Don’t Sign Away Your Rights if You Are Injured and Work for a Non-Subscriber

While many non-subscriber employers have work injury plans that provide medical and wage replacement coverage as well as other benefits, these work injury plans may have traps. Sometimes employers make their injured employees sign post-injury waivers saying they won’t sue before they can receive medical benefits. This is a non-subscriber company’s way of trying to protect themselves from lawsuits. Unfortunately, if injured workers don’t understand what they are signing, they can lose their right to get compensated when they are hurt in the workplace.

If you’re injured and asked to sign a waiver, talk to an experienced lawyer right away. No experienced work injury lawyer would ever allow a client with a valid negligence claim against a Texas non-subscriber employer to sign away their right to compensation. An attorney will advise you about the next steps to take and will stand up for you if your employer is denying you benefits.

Other Reasons Why Employers Don’t Have Workers’ Comp in Texas

Employers who don’t carry workers’ comp can also put their own rules in place for reporting injuries. These rules are typically to the employer’s advantage. They make it harder for employees to report injuries and easier for employers to deny them. For example, under workers’ comp in Texas, employees have 30 days to report injuries to employers; some non-subscribers give employees just 24 hours. And, even worse, it has been reported that some non-subscriber companies require workers to report injuries by the end of their shift. If these rules aren’t carefully followed, employees at these companies can be left without any help when they are injured.

Additionally, some non-subscriber plans don’t cover specific types of injuries; and when injuries are covered, the medical and wage-replacement benefits often cut off much earlier than they would with workers’ comp.

How Your Employer Can Be Held Responsible For Your Injuries

If your employer is a non-subscriber, it can be held legally responsible for your injuries if you were hurt because of negligence by the company, your manager or supervisor, or a coworker. Your employer can be responsible if …

  • They have poor safety policies and procedures in place.
  • Employees must use poorly maintained or improper equipment to do their jobs.
  • They failed to properly train employees.
  • Employees did not have sufficient assistance to do their jobs.

Here is an example of how standards are violated by employers in order to save money and how these violations lead to injuries. According to statistics from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one in ten construction workers is injured each year. Fall safety standards are violated the most. Fall injuries account for the majority of reported job site accidents. Employers are required to inspect and maintain their equipment regularly to ensure workers’ safety, which can be costly and take time. Therefore, some Texas employers may “cheat” and sacrifice employee safety to save money.

Do You Have a Legal Claim?

If you work for a non-subscriber employer and were injured at work, you may have a legal claim. Every case is different, so it is important to get guidance from a work injury attorney. But you may have a claim if you believe negligence by someone at your place of employment caused your injury or illness. Even if your non-subscriber employer is providing medical and wage-replacement benefits, you may be able to get additional compensation that will fully cover all of your losses by bringing a legal claim.

There are also cases where employers don’t provide workers’ comp and opt out of providing any injury insurance benefits at all. If you work for one of these employers, you may be able to file a lawsuit to get compensation.

Even if your employer carries official Texas workers’ compensation, depending on the circumstances of your workplace injury, you may be able to bring a claim against a third party. A third-party claim may be in addition to receiving workers’ comp benefits. A third-party claim is when someone other than your employer or a coworker caused your injury. Third-party claims can be brought against contractors, suppliers, or because of defective products or equipment, for example.

Contact a Responsive Work Accident Attorney in Houston

Protecting you and your family from injuries caused by negligent employers is one of our jobs as Texas work injury attorneys. We don’t hesitate to hold negligent parties accountable for worker injuries caused by workplace accidents. When you’ve been hurt at work, we’ll take decisive action to try to get you the compensation you need. Call our work accident attorneys at Waldman Legal Group in Houston for a free consultation at (713) 688-4878.