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How Construction and Work Accident Claims Work in Texas

Offered by The Herrera Law Firm

When you’re hurt on the job, you need to know your rights

Some jobs are more dangerous than others, but every job has the potential for injuries. In Texas, roughly one in every 50 workers is injured each year, according to data compiled by the Texas Department of Insurance.

Particularly in dangerous industries, safety must be the top priority in the workplace. Unfortunately, for too many workers, that’s not the case. A serious or fatal accident can change lives permanently, and victims need to know their rights in the civil justice system.

Texas law provides recourse for injured workers and families of workers killed in fatal accidents. However, the legal system is complex, and it’s important to know your rights and options in this situation.

What types of injuries are most common at work?

Workers can sustain many types of injuries on the job, including:

  • Head and brain injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • Spine injuries that can cause irreversible damage and loss of mobility.
  • Broken bones, often in the extremities, sustained during falls and other incidents.
  • Burns sustained in explosions and fires.
  • Back injuries that may cause chronic pain.
  • Loss of limbs in machinery accidents.
  • Hearing loss from noise exposure.

Unfortunately, too many accidents result in loss of life. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in one recent year, there were over 600 fatalities among Texas workers, nearly a quarter of which were construction workers.

Why do construction accidents happen?

According to OSHA, the “Fatal Four” causes of serious and fatal construction accidents are:

  • Falls from heights, particularly in major cities like San Antonio where construction workers are often working on scaffolding or many stories above ground.
  • Struck by object, including construction vehicle accidents.
  • Caught between objects, including trench collapses.
  • Electrocution, which can result from contact with utility wires or energized construction equipment.

There are many other things that can go wrong on a construction site, however. Trip and falls in cluttered environments are common, as are fires, explosions, and incidents involving machinery or power tools such as nail guns. On roadside construction sites, workers may be hit by private vehicles. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can also be significant risks on outdoor sites in hot weather.

What all these incidents have in common is that they are preventable. When a construction worker is badly hurt, it’s usually due to negligence: miscommunication, defective equipment, or cutting corners on safety. That’s why it’s so important for injured workers to seek recourse and accountability for their injuries.

The three main sources of compensation for work accidents

In Texas, there are three main ways to seek financial compensation for an accident at work: a workers’ compensation claim, a non-subscriber claim, and a third-party claim. Which options are available to you depends on the situation.

What is a workers’ compensation claim?

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system that provides certain benefits for injured workers, including the full cost of medical expenses as well as partial replacement of lost wages due to an injury.

To file a workers’ compensation claim, you need to notify your employer promptly of an injury. That means you have to tell someone in charge – such as your foreman or supervisor – and while you can do it verbally, it’s best to get it in writing. Legally, you have up to 30 days from the date of injury to make this notification; practically speaking, the sooner you notify the employer, the better. The employer is then responsible for notifying their workers’ compensation insurance provider to start benefits.

What is a non-subscriber claim?

Texas is unique in that most employers are allowed to opt out of the workers’ compensation system. Employers that do so are called non-subscribers. The number of non-subscribers has fallen in recent years, but it’s still a significant share of employers. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, as of 2018, 28% of Texas employers were non-subscribers, and 18% of Texas workers were employed by those non-subscribers.

People who work for non-subscribing employers cannot get workers’ compensation, but they retain the right to sue their employers for on-the-job injuries. A non-subscriber claim can pursue compensation above and beyond what workers’ compensation covers, such as pain and suffering, excess wage loss, and loss of quality and enjoyment of life.

What is a third-party claim?

If your employer is a subscriber to workers’ compensation, you can’t sue them directly for an on-the-job injury. That’s the tradeoff at the heart of the workers’ compensation system. However, that protection only applies to your direct employer. If a third party such as a contractor, vendor, or equipment manufacturer caused an injury, you can file a personal injury claim against that third party.

Third-party claims are particularly common in construction accidents. Often, there are multiple organizations involved on a single construction site: property owners, general contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, and so on. A worker who is injured by someone working for another company has every right to take legal action against that company. The manufacturers of construction equipment are also responsible for injuries caused by defects in their products.

Again, a third-party claim can pursue compensation that workers’ comp doesn’t cover, but you do need to prove negligence on the part of the third party to win. This requires an in-depth investigation and often legal action to preserve evidence before it is lost or destroyed.

Legal options for fatal work accidents

If a worker who is covered by workers’ compensation dies in a fatal accident, the surviving spouse and dependent family members can claim workers’ compensation death benefits. These benefits pay out a percentage of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage, plus burial expenses.

In situations where the worker could have filed a personal injury claim had he or she lived, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. In Texas, the surviving spouse, children, and parents are eligible to bring a wrongful death action; after three months, if none of those family members have filed a claim, the executor or administrator of the estate may do so.

A wrongful death claim can pursue compensatory damages for losses such as burial expenses, lost future income, and similar costs associated with the death, as well as losses sustained by the surviving family members like loss of consortium.

Why should I hire a Texas work accident lawyer?

The stakes are high in many work accident claims. Your case may be worth thousands of dollars or significantly more. The clock is running as well. In Texas, you only have one year to file a workers’ compensation claim and two years to file a lawsuit. These deadlines start the second you get hurt on the job. And the longer you wait, the harder it gets to find the evidence you need to build a strong legal case.

This is why it’s important to talk to a Texas work accident attorney right away. Your lawyer can get right to work on your case and start investigating your accident. Whether it’s carefully reviewing official documents, interviewing witnesses, or retaining experts, experienced attorneys know where to look to find the facts needed to support a successful injury claim.

Don’t underestimate the complexity of your legal case. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible about your potential legal case or injury claim. Most Texas attorneys who handle work accidents offer a free case evaluation. We also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only have to pay your attorney if they secure a financial settlement or verdict for you. Schedule an appointment today with a Texas work accident lawyer near you.

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Founded in 1983, The Herrera Law Firm fights for injured people in San Antonio and throughout Texas. We’re a premier personal injury firm with a strong track record. As founder Fr...