If you are injured at work in Texas, you may have several options for getting compensated. For example, you may qualify for workers’ compensation, depending on what caused your workplace injury. Even if you are ineligible for workers’ comp benefits, you may be able to recover compensation by suing your employer for negligence, or by filing lawsuits against third parties who contributed to your injuries.
Because there are several strategies to consider – and many complex regulations – you should work with an experienced work injury lawyer, like Kevin Queenan, who can help you weigh your options. With over 20 years of experience fighting for injured workers in Texas, Kevin Queenan is an aggressive and effective work injury lawyer serving Fort Worth and its suburbs. For a free legal consultation about your Fort Worth workplace accident, call The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. at (817) 476-1797, or contact us online today.
Workplace Injury + Fatality Statistics
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), “There were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2018,” roughly the same amount reported during the previous year. Most of the reported injuries were caused by the following types of accidents:
- “Contact with objects and equipment,” such as being struck by a heavy object, or coming into contact with electrical wiring
- Falls from heights at work
- Workplace slip and fall accidents
Unfortunately, many fatal and nonfatal accidents occur here in Texas, which has one of the largest economies in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is also part of the DOL, there were 534 fatal workplace injuries in Texas during 2017, predominantly attributed to the following causes:
- Contact with objects or equipment
- “Exposure to harmful substances or environments” (such as toxic chemicals)
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Transportation accidents
- Workplace fires and explosions
- Workplace violence (workplace assault) or animal attacks
Common Causes of Workplace Accidents in Fort Worth, TX
Many workplace injuries are caused by falls from heights, slip and fall accidents, or contact with objects. But what causes these hazards to develop in the first place? Why would a worker have a slip and fall accident, or accidentally come into contact with a hazardous substance?
The answer is often negligence: a careless failure to meet reasonable standards, considering the circumstances. For example, an employer might fail to maintain reasonably safe working conditions or might fail to provide adequate supervision or safety training. Factors like these can easily lead to a preventable accident, even when workers are cautious and experienced.
If worker injuries result from an employer’s negligence, the worker may be able to file a lawsuit. However, in other cases, it may be more appropriate to file for workers’ compensation benefits, which does not require the worker to prove negligence. These two strategies are compared below.
Common Injuries at Work in Fort Worth
The types of injuries you face on the job can vary from profession to profession. However, many injuries occur in different types of jobs across the board, affecting thousands of workers in Fort Worth every year. Many are not acute enough to cause lost time, but if an acute incident occurs, that injury could qualify as a workplace injury. Even if there is no acute injury, long-term injuries and illness can also qualify as work injuries, justifying claims against your employer in many cases.
One of the most common injuries that people sustain at work is a back injury. Low-back injuries, especially, are a common cause of lost time at work in many industries. Lifting and carrying can often lead to back injuries for warehouse workers, delivery workers, and even stock workers at retail and grocery stores. Drivers and desk workers spend a lot of time seated, often in uncomfortable seats, potentially leading to back injuries and soreness over time. Similar issues exist for workers with other neck and back injuries, too.
A sudden fall or strain can exacerbate this injury into an acute event, potentially leading to lost time at work.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive stress injuries are also quite common in workplaces. Typing, holding a steering wheel, planting or picking crops, working on an assembly line, and many other work tasks require repetitive motions that can lead to injury. Carpal tunnel is a common injury, as are more acute pulled muscles and strained ligaments.
Occupational Illness and Cancer
Many workers who spend their days around chemicals and dangerous substances end up facing illnesses. Many of these illnesses were mysterious only a few decades ago, but now we know so much about these illnesses and their causes that we can link many health conditions to workplace conditions.
Things like asbestosis and silicosis are lung conditions brought about by breathing in harmful materials (namely asbestos and silica, respectively) over a long period with improper ventilation, gas masks, and other protective policies and gear. Many workers also get cancer because of exposure to radiation, chemicals, and hazardous materials in the workplace. Talk to a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer if you suffer from any health conditions because of a long career exposed to dangers at work.
Can I Sue My Employer for a Work Injury in Fort Worth?
The answer to this question depends on several factors. One of the most important factors is whether your employer provides workers’ compensation benefits. Since each worker’s situation is unique, it is crucial to compare strategies in detail, carefully weighing whether to file a lawsuit or file for workers’ comp. A skilled attorney can help you see and avoid potential obstacles, taking the route designed to maximize your recovery.
Workers’ Compensation vs. Injury Lawsuits in Texas
It is not mandatory for Texas employers to carry workman’s comp insurance, meaning some individuals are covered while others are not. A Fort Worth work injury attorney from The Queenan Law Firm can determine whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits – and, if you are ineligible, can help you explore alternate ways to pursue financial compensation.
For example, if you cannot obtain workers’ comp benefits, it may be possible to sue your employer as an alternative. However, your success is contingent on many variables. One of the most important is your ability to show that your employer was negligent, meaning your employer failed to meet basic, reasonable standards of care and worker safety.
You do not need to prove that your employer was negligent or at fault for your injuries, in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, your ability to recover certain damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering, may be somewhat limited by filing a workman’s comp claim. Moreover, if you file for workers’ comp, you may be unable to file a lawsuit against your employer.
Suing Third Parties for Work Injuries
Workers’ compensation rules typically bar workers from suing their employers, but this does not stop lawsuits against third parties. For instance, if your injuries were caused or exacerbated by defective safety equipment, it may be possible to sue the company that sold or manufactured the faulty gear.
Other third parties are commonly responsible for injuries to workers, such as drivers who cause crashes for commercial truck drivers or customers who assault retail workers or restaurant workers. Lawsuits against these other parties function like any other injury lawsuit and do not have the restrictions that workers’ comp. claims often place on workers.
Exceptions to Workers’ Comp. Rules
Although workers who have workers’ compensation at their job usually cannot sue their employer directly for on-the-job injuries and illness, but there are some exceptions to these rules. As mentioned, you can always sue a third party for injuries, but there are two other major exceptions that allow you to sue the person you work for if they injure you while you are covered by workers’ comp.
First, you can sue an employer for intentional harm. If your boss or a manager assaults you at work, you can typically sue them even if you would otherwise be unable to sue for work injuries. These rules exist because insurance companies usually do not want to cover damages for intentional injuries and could encourage such behavior if they covered these cases without financial penalties. A lawsuit can help victims of workplace violence seek justice for what happened to them.
Second, independent contractors can sue their clients for injuries. While this might not be an “employer” in the strictest sense, you can often sue clients for unsafe workplace conditions or accidental injuries at a job site if you are an independent contractor. Without the employer-employee relationship, workers’ comp. rules do not bar lawsuits, but you do need to prove they were at fault to get compensation.
Opting Out of Workers’ Compensation
Texas law does not require Fort Worth employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, nor does it require workers to accept workers’ compensation coverage. When you start a new job, you have a limited time to opt out of workers’ compensation coverage if your employer provides it. This can often allow you to protect your right to sue your boss for injuries in the event of a workplace accident.
As mentioned, a lawsuit for workplace injuries can often lead to damages for pain and suffering and other damages that workers’ comp. does not cover, potentially expanding your horizons and allowing you to claim additional damages. However, the drawback is that you do need to prove fault in a lawsuit, whereas workers’ comp. pays for injuries whether someone can be blamed or not. Talk to a Fort Worth work injury about whether you should opt out of workers’ compensation coverage at your job and preserve your right to sue for work injuries.
Damages for Injured Workers in Fort Worth, TX
If you were injured in a workplace accident or developed an occupational illness because of work conditions, you could be entitled to compensation. The damages paid through workers’ compensation often cover 2/3 of your normal wages while you cannot work, and they will cover necessary medical bills as long as you continue to seek treatment through an approved physician. However, a lawsuit can often yield higher damages for your injuries and illnesses.
In a lawsuit, you could be entitled to 100% of the damages for medical bills, potentially allowing you to see a physician of your own choice and still get reimbursed. You can also claim full lost wage damages in many cases, potentially covering more than 2/3 of your lost income. You can also claim additional damages like pain and suffering, which are barred in most insurance and workers’ comp. claims. These damages can help get you additional damages for things like mental anguish and emotional distress related to your injuries.
Talk to a lawyer about what damages are available in your case. Calculating damages and projecting future damages is often a difficult process and may require the help of financial experts to prove your damages in court.
Fort Worth, TX Work Accident Lawyers
You have worked hard all your life, yet you were injured through no fault of your own. You deserve an attorney who will fight just as hard on your behalf.
At The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., we are proud to serve the workers who drive the Texas economy, from oil and gas workers, to waiters and retail workers, to construction workers and heavy laborers. If you were injured on the job, we are here to advise and counsel you – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Contact our Arlington TX personal injury attorneys online right away to set up a free legal consultation, or call The Queenan Law Firm at (817) 476-1797 to speak with a Fort Worth workplace accident lawyer today.