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Getting injured while on the job can be stressful, debilitating, and can leave you and your family wondering how you will cover the costs of your medical bills. Employers should do everything possible to keep workers safe in their work environment. All companies are required to have safe operating practices put into place to prevent harm to their employees. Our team at Dax F. Garza, P.C. can provide knowledgeable legal guidance to ensure your needs are met after a workplace accident.

What Accidents and Injuries Are Considered Work-Related?

Sometimes injuries that happen while at the workplace may still not be considered work-related. If you get injured while performing duties required by your job, that is almost always considered a work-related injury. There are exceptions to this, however, including injuries or accidents that may occur on breaks unless that injury happens in a workplace break room or cafeteria or if the employer is directly involved in some way.

Common Causes of Workplace Accidents

One of the most important aspects of safety awareness is knowing what unique risks are associated with your work environment. Employers are required to have safety programs in place, no matter what profession you are in, to ensure worker safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), slips, trips, and falls in the workplace account for the majority of jobsite accidents that occur. Slips, trips, and falls are more likely to happen because of ladder use, working on roofs, and working on scaffolding. Even if the work environment does not involve workers interacting with the leading causes of slips, trips, and falls, there are many other ways in which these accidents can occur.

Other causes of workplace accidents include:

  • Overexertion in lifting or lowering objects
  • Transportation incidents
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments
  • Fires and explosions
  • Being struck by equipment or objects
  • Broken equipment
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Areas with lack of safety signage

Sadly, workplace accidents happen every day and many of those accidents are serious. According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in 2018, 5,250 people were killed in workplace accidents. An industry that is particularly susceptible to work injuries is the construction industry, which accounts for one of every five workplace injuries.

A company’s negligence that results in an accident or bodily injury to an employee can have significant financial and legal implications. Preventing accidents and creating a culture of safety and awareness are the best ways to keep employees safe.

How to Prevent Workplace Accidents

Companies can help prevent workplace accidents by having a strategic safety plan. Being proactive in the measures taken to keep workers safe will significantly reduce on the job accidents. Employers should minimally be enforcing the following safety efforts:

  • Promote safety awareness and education
  • Communicate safety hazards with adequate signage
  • Quickly contain spills
  • Routinely check for safety hazards
  • Install proper ventilation
  • Enforce proper attire

What Should I Do If I Am Injured at Work?

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while at work, there are specific steps you should take to protect yourself. First and foremost seek immediate medical attention and have any and all injuries treated. Workplace accidents happen suddenly and injured workers typically have the following options after an accident on the job:

  • If the employer does not subscribe to Texas workers’ compensation, the worker can file a lawsuit directly against their employer to recover financial damages including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, physical impairment, and any other damages to which they are legally entitled
  • Accept workers’ compensation benefits from a subscribing employer, which prevents the worker from filing a lawsuit against or recovering any damages from their employer
  • Accept workers’ compensation benefits from the employer, but file a lawsuit against any other third parties/companies that caused or contributed to the work-related accident

In any of these cases, seeking guidance from an experienced Texas work accident attorney is essential to making sure you receive fair compensation. There are also legal deadlines you must meet to make a valid claim for damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you gather all necessary information, including inspections, witness statements, and more that are needed for the claim. Businesses typically have teams of lawyers ready to build a defense against you; and, having an attorney on your side will be essential in making sure you are treated fairly.

Workers’ Rights

Employers are legally required to provide a safe workplace for their employees along with safety training. When employers ignore their responsibility to keep workers safe, they are failing employees and increasing the chances of a serious injury on the job. Workers injured on the job must take action. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide employees with:

  • Training in a language they understand
  • Work on machines that are safe
  • Required safety gear, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
  • Protection from toxic chemicals
  • The ability to request an OSHA inspection and speak to the inspector
  • The ability to report an injury or illness and get copies of medical records
  • Copies of the workplace injury and illness log
  • Records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Copies of test results conducted in order to identify workplace hazards

File a Claim

The process of reporting an injury and processing the associated claim can be complex and frustrating, whether dealing with workers’ compensation or not. It’s important that the injured employee have the guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure adequate compensation for wage loss, medical bills, and other damages suffered.

In the event the employer subscribes to workers’ compensation coverage, after reporting an accident, the Texas Department of Insurance will send a packet containing the following items needed to process the claim:

  • Notice of injury letter
  • DWC Form-041 – Employee’s claim for compensation for a work-related injury or occupational disease
  • List of injured employee rights and responsibilities
  • Return-to-work information
  • Injured employee checklist

Will I Be Fired for Contacting a Lawyer?

The law protects what you talk about with an attorney for legal advice. Your confidentiality is of the utmost importance to us and no one will know that you have contacted a lawyer. When considering taking legal action, there are a few types of compensation you may be able to seek. In the case of workplace accidents, the injured worker can file a lawsuit seeking to recover financial damages from the party/parties responsible for the injuries. The amount of damages to be recovered will depend on the extent and severity of the injuries sustained and the circumstances surrounding the claim.

An experienced work accident attorney will be able to help you determine both the financial damages and the pain, suffering, and mental anguish you have suffered as a result of the accident. Our attorneys are exclusively handle personal injury claims and so we know what settlements and verdicts are common in claims similar to yours. While each case is unique, and no attorney can guarantee the amount of money to be recovered, they can help you estimate a general sense of the compensation you may be entitled to.

Being injured while on the job is a painful, confusing, and stressful experience that can leave a worker wondering what their next steps are and if they are going to be able to continue working and supporting their family. The first thing many employees think of after suffering a work injury and seeking medical treatment is filing a workers’ compensation claim. In Texas, however, employers are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance – and companies that opt out are called non-subscribers. What happens when a worker is injured on the job and an employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance?

Texas Workers’ Compensation Subscribers and Non-Subscribers

Texas workers’ compensation is divided into two categories – subscribers and non-subscribers. If your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, they are considered a “subscriber.” Employees injured on the job while working for a subscriber have a fairly straightforward process for filing a workers’ compensation claim for financial benefits. The employee must simply show they were performing their work duties within the normal scope of their job when they were injured to receive compensation. They do not need to prove any negligence on the part of their employer; however, the benefits they will receive and the types of treatments that are covered are dictated by the regulatory process.

An employer is considered a non-subscriber in Texas when they do not pay for workers’ compensation insurance. Non-subscribers are not immune from lawsuits brought by injured workers, however, and can therefore be sued directly. Injured workers who prove their employer’s negligence caused their injury can sue the employer for financial damages.

When an employee is hired, the employer is required to notify them of its coverage status – if it does or does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance. That information must also be posted in a designated area along with all other required workplace posters. If an employer has workers’ compensation insurance but does not renew its coverage at any point, it must also notify current employees of that change.

Third Party Claims

Even if an employer is a workers’ compensation subscriber, if an employee is injured on the job, they may be able to maintain a cause of action against responsible parties other than their employer. Do not assume that workers’ comp is your only remedy, even if your employer says so. It is always worth speaking with an experienced occupational injury lawyer to determine if another party – a third party like a contractor or subcontractor – can be held responsible for the injuries you suffered.

If you have been injured at work, first seek medical treatment and then consult with an experienced work injury attorney to determine the next best steps. If you suffered a serious or debilitating injury on the job, hire a personal injury lawyer immediately so they can navigate the delicate process of seeking financial compensation for you. Your employer may seem nice at first, but things could turn ugly when they learn just how much they may have to pay for your injuries. The financial recovery for injured workers from Texas non-subscriber employers is not limited in amount or type of compensation you can be awarded after being injured on the job. Depending on how severe your injuries are and how long your recovery may take, you may recover damages for physical pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, lost wages and wage-earning capacity, and other damages not available under workers’ compensation.

An experienced workplace injury attorney will investigate and find all evidence needed to ensure you receive fair and adequate monetary compensation. In some cases, employers may have violated established work safety standards set by OSHA by asking their workers to perform duties that are inherently dangerous, such as climbing without safety harnesses or requiring employees to work in unsafe work environments. An employee who is injured as a result of employer negligence deserves to be compensated for their injuries.

Oilfield Accidents

Workers expect a safe work environment when they clock in for work each morning. Most of the time, a worker can’t even anticipate being catastrophically injured or even dying because employers are supposed to keep us safe, right? Unfortunately for some, the harsh reality is that not all work places are created equal and many workers have to deal with devastating circumstances.

Earlier this year, a Jefferson County jury returned a $44 million verdict for a workplace accident at the ExxonMobil refinery that resulted in numerous injuries and even the death of an employee. Hector Barron, representing the estate of Miguel Barron, filed suit against ExxonMobil, B&G Crane Service, and AltairStrickland in the summer of 2016. Miguel died at the Beaumont refinery during turnaround operations when he and his brother Hector were working on an elevated platform when a pipe fell from above.

The trial began in August and ended in September with jurors awarding $44,370,000 in favor of Hector Barron and the family of Miguel Barron. Jurors found the negligence of ExxonMobil, B&G Crane and Altair Strickland had caused the incident to occur assigning the majority of the blame onto ExxonMobil and B&G Crane. They found that Miguel Barron had committed no negligence.

Causes of Oilfield Accidents

Oilfield accidents have many causes that include but are not limited to:

  • Failing to comply with old and new safety standards
  • Failing to properly post safety signage
  • Failing to give proper training to employees
  • Failing to protect visitors to the job site
  • Delays or failure in replacing or maintaining faulty equipment
  • Improper construction of equipment or safety items such as rails, steps, frames, etc.
  • Cracks and fissures in storage units, pipes, lines, and other means of fluid transportation
  • Improper storage of hazardous fluids
  • Failing to provide adequate safety equipment such as fire suppression tools, goggles, helmets, and suits
  • The failure of the TRC to cite violations

Every Texas worker expects to work in a reasonably safe environment maintained by his or her employer. No one wants to be injured while doing their job but every year thousands of Texans are involved in work accidents. This can be a scary, painful, and confusing experience that leaves workers wondering how they will recover and if they will be able to continue to financially support their families. When injured at work, who can be held responsible for your medical expenses? In Texas, if you are injured in a work accident while on the job, typically your employer is required to help you obtain medical treatment. Some employers and their insurance companies may make this process difficult and will try to avoid paying appropriate compensation for your injuries.

What to Do if You Are Injured on the Job

If you have suffered an injury while at work, there are specific steps you should take to protect yourself. First, seek immediate medical attention and have any and all injuries treated. Workplace accidents happen suddenly, and injured workers typically have the following options after an accident on the job:

  • If the employer does not subscribe to Texas workers’ compensation, the worker can file a lawsuit directly against their employer to recover financial damages, including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other damages to which they are legally entitled
  • Accept workers’ compensation benefits from a subscribing employer, which prevents the worker from filing a lawsuit against or recovering any damages from their employer, but not from other responsible parties
  • Accept workers’ compensation benefits from the employer, but file a lawsuit against any other third parties/companies that caused or contributed to the work-related accident

In any of these cases, seeking guidance from an experienced Texas work accident attorney is essential to making sure you receive fair compensation. There are also legal deadlines you must meet to make a valid claim for damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you gather all necessary information, including incident reports, inspections, witness statements, and more that are needed for the claim.

Common Mistakes Workers Make After an On-The-Job Accident

While unsuspecting workers can make many mistakes after being injured on the job, the top five mistakes after a job injury include:

  1. Failing to Notify Their Employer: File a report immediately, in writing, and give it to your employer. Many employers have a 24-hour reporting deadline, so it is best to file a report the same day if you are physically able to with your injuries. Although an injured worker has 30 days to report a work-related injury in Texas, if the employee waits a week or more before reporting it, the insurance carrier will question the gap and thus the employee’s credibility.
  2. Failing to Timely Seek Medical Treatment: By refusing a medical examination at the scene of a work-related accident, it may be presumed that you were not hurt. Even if you go to the doctor later, the responsible parties and their insurance carriers will try to say that your injuries are not directly related to the on-the-job accident. If you don’t document your workplace injury at the scene of the accident and you don’t go to the doctor until later, you will have to prove your injuries resulted from the incident.
  3. Failing to Disclosure Prior Injuries: A preexisting injury or other medical condition does not prevent you from recovering financial damages for a new work injury; however, failing to notify or disclose prior injuries can be extremely problematic for a variety of reasons.
  4. Returning to Work Too Soon or Not Soon Enough: If an injured worker gets desperate for money to pay their bills and support their loved ones, they may act against medical advice and return to work too soon after a job-related injury. This can further aggravate the original injury and even cause permanent damage. It is best to wait until you are medically cleared to return to work. The flipside of this problem is when a worker is cleared to work again but does not go back when required. If you feel your physician has prematurely cleared you to return to work, a lawyer can help you get a second opinion that may very well differ from that of the “company doctor” whose role is to get workers back on the job as soon as possible so companies pay as little as possible in work injury claims.
  5. Failing to Consult with And Hire an Experienced Job Injury Lawyer: Many Texas workers take their jobs very seriously and some so seriously that they are scared to report an injury or admit their injury is affecting their ability to do their jobs for fear of being fired, reassigned, or blackballed in their industry. Working with an experienced work injury lawyer will help you feel more comfortable with the process, as they can explain there are laws in place to prevent this type of retaliation.

Employees Need Help To Recover After a Traumatic Workplace Accident

After a workplace accident occurs, the injured worker may be gone for some time; or, if a worker was killed, their absence will play on the minds of their coworkers. Losing someone you work with suddenly can be just as impactful as losing a friend or family member. Research has shown that there are often long-lasting emotional effects on a workforce that has experienced a workplace accident involving a serious injury or death. It can affect workers’ mental health, productivity, and safety. While your place of work may offer counselors or debriefing to discuss the incident and what changes will be made so that sort of accident does not happen again, it may not be enough to make workers feel safe again.

Serious and/or fatal workplace accidents affect all employees in a company, regardless of whether they witnessed the accident, were in the same department, or were close with the deceased worker. Even when an accident is not fatal, it can change the morale of the entire workforce. Workers may become distracted or hyper-focused, depending on what happened, which can result in decreased productivity. Some workers may experience guilt, self-doubt, or wonder if there was something they could have done differently that would have prevented the accident, even if they had nothing to do with it. Coworkers may also be distracted by thoughts of the accident. Anything that takes attention away from job duties can lead to another accident and put the entire workforce at risk.

Another stress factor is potentially working with decreased manpower. The business will have to run without the injured or deceased employee for an undetermined period of time. In small businesses, this can be even more impactful as other employees may be asked to do more work while grieving which increases the risk of burnout.

Houston Workplace Accident Attorney

Regardless of occupation, all workers have a right to a safe work environment free of any dangers. When employers fail to provide an environment in compliance with local and federal safety standards, workers are at immediate risk for life-altering injuries or worse, death. If you or someone you know has been injured or killed as a result of a workplace accident, you could be entitled to significant financial compensation; however, there is limited time to act following a work accident in Texas. Contact the Houston injury attorneys at Dax F. Garza, P.C. today for a free and confidential case consultation.

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