Can you sue your employer for a work injury? If you’ve been injured while at work and need ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation, that may be a question you’re asking yourself.
It can be an issue fraught with worry and stress because many people in this situation are concerned about upsetting their boss by suing them and potentially putting their job in jeopardy. However, if you have a case and are entitled to compensation, you have every right to receive a settlement.
We look at Texas workers’ compensation laws and whether you can sue your employer for a work injury.
Texas Workers’ Compensation Laws
Workers’ compensation — also known as workers’ comp — is a type of insurance companies take out to cover out-of-pocket expenses to an employee when they’re injured at work. These expenses can include medical bills, lost wages, and funeral costs if the accident is fatal.
However, unlike in all other states, workers’ compensation insurance is not mandatory in Texas. Many companies in Texas still take out workers’ compensation insurance because it offers protection and coverage, especially in industries where workplace injury may be more common (such as construction). However, if your employer doesn’t have workers’ comp, you might be wondering what you can do. Can you sue your employer for your work injury?
The answer could be yes.
How Common Are Workplace Injuries in Texas?
Work environments can be incredibly dangerous places. Factories and construction sites are especially so, filled with all kinds of machinery and potentially hazardous materials and substances. Texas also has hundreds of oil rigs that carry their own particular dangers and risks to workers. You don’t even have to work in a challenging environment to suffer an injury, as you could easily slip and fall while on the job.
Employers are obligated to provide a safe place to work for their workers, and if they fail to do so, they may be liable if someone gets injured due to the employer’s negligence. Family members may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit if their loved one is killed while at work.
Tragically, the number of deaths occurring at work is on the rise, with Texas reporting a sizable 25% increase in work fatalities for 2019. According to data from the Texas Department of Insurance, 608 people lost their lives while at work, compared to 488 the year before.
Non-fatal work injuries are also common. According to the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019. However, this may not be the full picture. Some studies suggest that many injuries and illnesses go unreported.
Types of Workplace Injuries You May Be Able to Sue For
If your job involves manual labor, you’re putting yourself at a high level of risk of injury. But accidents can happen anywhere — even if you’re sitting down in an office for much of the day. For instance, you could trip over an electric cable partially hidden under a carpet or that wasn’t properly taped down. Your back can suffer from all that sitting, and your hands and arms are at risk from repetitive stress injury if you’re typing for long stretches. If that’s happened to you, you should contact a personal injury lawyer in Texas to see if you’re entitled to claim compensation.
Other frequent workplace injuries include:
- Muscle strain. This often results from overexertion when using too much effort to move, lift, shove, or carry something.
- Slips, trips, and falls. These injuries can happen in various settings, from wet floors to scaffolding, climbing ladders, working on roofs, and many other structures.
- Machine-related injuries. Working with machines puts employees at risk of being injured by them, whether they’re struck, crushed, or injured in some other way by a mechanical device.
- Contact with toxic materials and substances. In factories and other settings, workers must routinely handle harmful materials and substances, such as toxic chemicals, and direct contact with them may result in severe injury.
- Fires and explosions. Some industries are more at risk of fires breaking out and explosions occurring, such as the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors, but they can happen anywhere.
- Transportation. Sadly, many accidents happen when workers are on the road for their job, whether delivering goods or traveling to see clients.
- Violence. This comprises violence between people — such as if a person punches someone else while at work — but can also include animal violence. This will depend on the nature of someone’s work, such as if they are a veterinarian.
So Can I Sue My Employer for a Work Injury?
If your employer has failed in their obligation of duty of care, resulting in an injury you had to seek medical treatment and care for, you may have a case. Many companies may be reluctant to make a settlement, especially if they don’t have workers’ compensation insurance, so it’s vital to have an experienced work injury lawyer fighting for you.
Suing your employer for a work injury starts with proof of what happened; your word alone is not enough. For example, were you able to take photographs and videos of the accident site with your phone? This can go a long way towards proving negligence. If colleagues were around who saw what happened, getting witness testimony can also be hugely important in proving a claim. Ensure you ask your fellow workers who were around at the time of your accident if they will testify for you.
Then, there’s your medical treatment. You and your work injury lawyers will need a report from your doctor detailing the extent of your injuries and the treatment you had. If you require ongoing treatment and rehabilitation, these costs can be projected and included in your settlement. You can also add lost earnings if you’re unable to work because of your injuries, as well as estimated future loss of earnings.
If your personal injury lawyer and employer’s insurance company cannot agree on a settlement, you then have to decide if you want to go to court. Your attorney may also recommend this route if you have a strong case and believe you are entitled to a higher payout. In the case of litigation, your lawyer will prepare your case and gather all evidence to fight for a fair compensation claim, which may include expert medical testimony, before presenting your case to a judge and jury.
If you win, you’ll receive compensation suitable for your injuries and any ongoing suffering and loss of income.
Can I Sue My Employer if They Have Workers’ Compensation?
If your employer has workers’ compensation and you successfully file a workers’ comp claim for your medical expenses and lost earnings, you cannot sue your employer, even if they were negligent.
However, you may have a case if another party was negligent, and this caused your injury.
To do this, you must prove:
- The third-party owed you a duty of care
- The third-party breached that duty of care
- That breach of duty caused your injury.
A breach could be any negligent behavior, such as failing to protect you from exposure to hazardous substances or materials or providing you with defective personal protective equipment.
Several other parties may be liable for your accident. These can include:
Contractors and Subcontractors
If you work alongside contractors or subcontractors brought on to complete work at a construction site, they may be liable to warn you of potential hazards. Failing to do so — whether through incompetence or because they’re unqualified — could make them liable for your injury.
Engineers and Architects
If you’re working alongside engineers and architects whose responsibility is to design non-defective and functional projects, you can hold them liable if design plans weren’t up to scratch.
In what is perhaps the most common instance of third-party liability, you can sue an equipment manufacturer if its equipment has been designed dangerously, has a serious defect, or doesn’t come with instructions or warnings.
For example, if you’ve lost a limb in an accident due to faulty equipment, you can file a claim with your employer to get compensation for your medical treatment and lost wages. Because your employer has workers’ comp insurance, you cannot sue them for negligence. However, you may choose to sue the manufacturer and get compensation for projected medical costs and loss of earnings, plus non-economic damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment.
If you’ve been injured while at work in Texas and you’re unsure if you can sue your employer for a work injury, you can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our expert work injury lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio. Call 855-LAW-NINJA or fill in our contact form to find out how much compensation you could be entitled to.