However, the legal issues are extremely complex. There are qualification requirements, certain facts you must prove, and multiple time limitations apply.
According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 230,500 cases involving nonfatal injuries or illness in Texas in a single recent year. Of these incidents, 128,000 involved days away from work, a job transfer to accommodate the employee, or a limitation on the employee’s work-related activities.
If you’ve been hurt on the job, your best strategy for ensuring the protection of your legal rights is to retain an experienced, skilled lawyer to represent you.
Houston workplace accident lawyer Andrew Seerden is dedicated to fighting for you to pursue all compensation available based on your circumstances. He is certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, an honor earned by only 2 percent of attorneys in the state.
Please contact Seerden Law Firm, PLLC in Houston to set up a free consultation about your rights and options.
What to Do If You Have Been Hurt at Work
Your health and your rights are at stake when you are injured in a workplace accident, so the next steps are critical. The order of completing these steps may depend on the severity of your injuries, but you should address each of them in turn.
- Stop Working – This may seem like common sense, but a number of injured workers attempt to finish the shift or task at hand. Immediately stop work-related activities, as you could make your injuries worse. Not only does your health suffer, but your rights may be affected if you do not stop.
- Seek Appropriate Medical Care – The nature of your medical treatment will depend on your injuries. For life-threatening injuries or bodily harm that requires immediate surgery, head to the emergency room immediately. If you suffered less severe injuries, you should seek treatment at an urgent care center.
- Report Your Injury or Illness – You will recall that the time limitation for notifying your employer is 30 days. Follow your employer’s internal policies for reporting work-related medical conditions.
- Consult with a Workplace Injury Lawyer – As soon as you are physically able, contact an attorney to discuss your circumstances. Do not provide any formal statement, accept an interview request, or sign any document. In addition, you should not accept any money outside of your normal paycheck. You may relinquish certain rights without realizing the legal effect of your actions.
Types of Compensation Available After a Workplace Injury
There are four types of compensation you may be able to recover when filing a workers’ comp claim through DWC and your employer’s insurance company:
1. Income Benefits – If your injuries prevent you from working, you may be entitled to recover income replacement benefits. These benefits may be paid out on a temporary basis until you can return to your job. Permanent income benefits are also available if you are permanently impaired.
2. Medical Bills – Workers’ compensation will pay for all medical care that is reasonable and necessary to treat an on-the-job injury or illness. Health care that is unrelated to your injuries will not be covered, even if you receive treatment at the same time. You may have to be treated by an approved physician if your coverage is provided through a workers’ comp health care network.
3. Death Benefits – If you lose a loved one because of a work-related injury or illness, benefits are available for certain surviving family members. Those eligible for workers’ comp death benefits include:
- The victim’s surviving spouse
- Minor children
- Children aged 18-25 who attend college or university
- Certain dependents
- Non-dependent parents, if none of the above apply
Death benefits are 75 percent of the victim’s employee’s average weekly wage. They are paid out to survivors for a duration that depends on the relationship to the deceased, the number of other beneficiaries, and many other factors.
4. Funeral and Burial Costs – Workers’ compensation insurance also covers the costs of funeral and burial services in the event that a covered employee dies due to a work-related accident or illness.
Notably, amounts for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic damages are not available when you file a claim with DWC. You can recover compensation for these losses if you have the right to sue your employer directly, outside the state workers’ compensation program. The process is described in more detail below.
How Long Do You Have to File a Claim After a Workplace Injury?
There are multiple time limits that apply to a workplace injury that relate to filing a claim and preserving other rights.
Notification to Your Employer – You have 30 days to notify your employer that you suffered a workplace injury while performing job-related tasks.
If your medical condition is an illness, the same 30-day time limitation applies. However, the clock starts running the date you discovered that your illness may be work-related, since these health issues may develop over time instead of through one particular incident.
Filing Forms with the DWC – You have one year to file the Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Claim Form with DWC. The time limitation starts the date of your work-related injury, or from the date you discovered a work-related illness. For qualifying family members, it is also necessary to file a claim for death and burial benefits within one year after the employee’s date of death.
Initiating a Lawsuit in Court – If you are eligible to file a lawsuit in civil court against your employer, the Texas statute of limitations for personal injury cases applies. You have two years to officially initiate litigation, measure from:
- The date you were hurt in a workplace accident
- The date you discovered that you suffer from a work-related medical condition
- The date your family member died due to a workplace-related medical condition
Understanding Your Rights Beyond Workers’ Comp
While workers’ compensation is often the primary remedy for victims of a workplace accident or illness, there may be other options available in your case. Your legal alternatives vary depending on your specific circumstances, but you may be able to file a lawsuit in court against your employer or another party responsible for your injuries.
Examples of scenarios where you may sue directly include:
- When a defective, dangerous product or piece of equipment caused your injuries
- When your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance
- If a third party caused your injury
- Other situations designated by law
Note that you may also file a claim against your employer for negligence, such as where:
- Your employer was careless in hiring another employee, such as not conducting a background check to uncover a prior history of violent criminal activity.
- Your employer failed to properly train you or other employees on the equipment necessary to perform job-related tasks.
- Your employer failed to maintain a safe work environment by not taking corrective action against an unsafe situation.
- Your employer did not properly supervise or monitor members of the workforce.
It is important to discuss potential options with a workplace injury lawyer and weigh your remedies regarding litigation versus filing a workers’ comp claim.
Common Types of Workplace Accidents
Though on-the-job injuries and illnesses can occur in any industry, there are some scenarios where these incidents tend to be more frequent. Common types of workplace accidents in Texas include:
- Industrial accidents
- Incidents in supply chain, logistics, and warehousing
- Construction accidents
- Manufacturing incidents
- Oilfield Accidents
- Incidents involving workers in the maritime industry, such as longshoreman, commercial fisherman, seaman, offshore workers, and related employees
- Refinery accidents
- Many more
Why You Need an Attorney to Help with a Workplace Injury Claim
There is no legal requirement that you hire a lawyer to represent you after suffering injuries in a workplace accident. However, an attorney is a valuable asset for a number of reasons.
A lawyer who focuses on work-related injury cases has in-depth knowledge of the laws that apply to your case. Texas is the only state in the U.S. that does not require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which is intended to protect injured employees and provide financial support.
You still have rights as a worker, but the legal landscape is very different from the rest of the nation. High-level legal proficiency is absolutely critical to ensure protection of your interests. If you do not have a legal background, you put your rights at risk.
In addition, the process for obtaining compensation for your injuries or illness is extremely complex. You face an uphill battle in attempting to represent yourself, especially when your priority should be healing and getting back to work. A workplace accident lawyer can help you overcome some of the challenges you could face, such as:
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim – Though not required by law, many Texas employers do carry workers’ compensation insurance. The Department of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), under the Texas Department of Insurance, is tasked with administering the program and filing process.
There are multiple steps to submitting a claim after you are injured, and strict deadlines that affect your rights. The forms you must file are extensive, and you need to include a massive amount of supporting documentation to prove that you are entitled to benefits. You must establish:
- That your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance
- That you are an employee who is covered by the workers’ comp policy
- That you were hurt in an on-the-job incident or suffered an occupational illness while performing work-related tasks
Even a slight mistake could delay your benefits or your claim could be rejected in its entirety. A workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that your claim and supporting documents comply with all requirements. Accuracy is essential because the next step in the process is the DWC forwarding your claim to your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company.
Negotiating with Your Employer’s Workers’ Comp Insurer – A workers’ compensation insurance provider is very similar to other types of insurers. The company accepts premiums from your employer in exchange for paying out claims if an employee is injured in an accident. A workers’ comp insurer is like any other business in that it must maximize profits and minimize losses in order to be successful.
Your workers’ compensation claim is a threat to the business interests of the insurance company. Therefore, the insurer will find any reason to reduce the benefits payable to you. Worse, the company may deny your claim by asserting that:
- You are not a covered employee.
- You were not injured in an on-the-job accident.
- Your illness is not related to your job.
- Any other grounds to reject payment.
Workers’ compensation lawyers are very familiar with the tactics insurance companies use to protect their own interests instead of yours. An attorney draws from extensive experience and meticulous legal knowledge to counter the insurer’s arguments.
Claims Beyond Workers’ Compensation – Another challenge in workplace accidents is understanding if you have any rights outside the state workers’ compensation system. The default rule is that your sole remedy for a work-related injury is to go through the DWC claims process if your employer has workers’ comp coverage. However, there are some exceptions that may extend your rights. For example, if a non-employer third party was responsible for your injuries, you may be able to bring a claim against them to seek benefits outside the workers’ compensation system.
Contact a Workplace Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation
Work-related injuries and illnesses are very complex areas of law. Though you may have rights and remedies, you could put them in jeopardy if you do not strictly comply with the laws, time limitations, and other requirements. Don’t harm your interests and lose out on your opportunity to recover compensation. Get help from a lawyer now.
For more information on workers’ compensation claims and other legal remedies, please contact Seerden Law Firm, PLLC in Houston. We can schedule a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation to review your circumstances and answer questions about your rights.