What do you need to do to get compensated for your job site injuries?
Written by: Enjuris Editors
Construction sites are some of the most dangerous places to work in America. That's true for Texas, too.
Every year, 1 in 10 construction site workers is hurt on the job. In 2009, 816 workers died on construction sites around the country. Common construction site accidents in Texas include:
Explosions and fires
Bad tools, faulty equipment
What causes construction site accidents?
Construction accidents injure and kill workers because of overwork, poor training, crowded job sites and equipment malfunction. Builders are always on tight deadlines to get a building up or renovated. These deadlines lead to cutting corners on safety. A strapped builder also may cut the budget on safety equipment.
And who pays in the end? The worker – who is possibly crippled for life, or dead. And his family.
Who's responsible for construction site accidents?
If a worker is hurt or killed at a construction site, the employer, property owner and/or manufacturer may be held liable.
Consequences of construction site accidents
Construction accidents often involve devastating injuries. The expenses and bills pile up fast:
Doctors' and hospital bills
Loss of income
Long-term or permanent impairment
Inability to work in some cases
Destroyed career for some workers
Complexities of Texas construction site accidents
Laws in Texas for these incidents are complicated; this is in part because of recent tort reform that was passed a few years ago. The tort reform measures mean there now are two general sets of laws that affect workers' rights:
Job site injuries that are covered by workers' compensation
Job site injuries that are not covered by workers' compensation
Your rights in your case will vary depending on the status of your employer. That status also affects the type of attorney you need. Furthermore, your possible compensation limits and caps can be affected as well.
Workers' compensation in Texas
The Texas Workers' Compensation Act was passed in 1993. This law protects companies by letting them buy workers' compensation insurance. This protects them from large lawsuits from injured workers.
If you are hurt on the job site and the employer subscribes to workers' compensation insurance, your medical expenses and some wages should be paid by that insurer.
Naturally, some companies play games, and some injured workers get shafted.
If you think you are getting jerked around and not properly compensated, you should speak to a good workers' compensation attorney in Texas.
What about non-subscribing companies?
Your employer may not subscribe to workers' compensation insurance. That makes them a non-subscriber. The Texas Workers' Compensation Act has provisions that punish these companies by removing some of their legal defenses. The law also does not set a cap on the amount of damages you can recover.
However, some very aggressive defense attorneys in Texas have made their careers out of defending non-subscribing companies. They don't have many defenses to use to save their clients from paying big, so guess what they do?
The defense attorney will likely attack YOU.
He or she will try to discredit you and "prove" that the accident was your fault. If your company does not subscribe to workers' compensation, you'll want to have an attorney right away.
Enjuris Tip: If you work for a Texas employer with workers' compensation insurance, a workers' compensation claim is usually the only legal remedy for an injured worker. However, if the worker dies, the family may file a personal injury lawsuit for punitive damages in some cases. Talk to an attorney about this to learn more.
Getting compensated through worker's compensation
Below are the general steps to file a workers' compensation case in Texas.
#1 Report the injury to your employer via the proper channel
Workers' compensation in Texas is regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance. The law states that you have 30 working days after the construction site injury to report it to your employer. You must provide notification in writing with DWC Form-041; a verbal communication to your boss doesn't cut it.
If you have been hospitalized with severe injuries, one of your family members can inform your employer in writing.
#2 Get medical attention
Your employer should have a list of health care professionals that you can visit that are covered under their workers' compensation insurance. You should select one of those doctors. Visit him or her as long as your claim is open for all injuries related to the construction site accident.
If your company doesn't give you a list of health care providers, select your own. The smart move is to talk with a worker's compensation attorney here; the health care provider will have major say over the benefits you receive in the claim.
#3 Your employer reports the injury to the insurance company
Texas law states that your employer has eight days to tell the insurance company about your injuries.
#4 Insurer pays or denies your claim
The company's insurance company then evaluates the claim. They will either provide an admission of liability or they will deny the claim – this is also called a "notice of contest."
Common reasons for a claim to be denied are:
Insufficient information about the accident
The insurance company thinks the accident wasn't related to work
#5 Denied? Talk to a Texas workers comp attorney
A construction site accident is usually serious business. If your claim is denied, you need an attorney immediately. An experienced workers' compensation lawyer can help you get what you deserve.
Income: replaces part of your wages lost due to your injury. Includes temporary income benefits; impairment income benefits; supplemental income benefits; and lifetime income benefits. The kind you receive depends upon the type and severity of your injury.
Medical: pays for vital medical care to treat your injuries.
Burial: pays for some funeral expenses if the injured worker dies.
Death: pays a part of the family's lost income for workers killed on a construction site.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates and administers the workplace safety rules and jobsite accidents in the US. After a construction accident, an OSHA team will go to the site and investigate. OSHA will then file a report and offer recommendations and conclusions.
Don't hold your breath thinking that OSHA will force your company to pay for your injuries. OSHA may indeed fine the company, but the fines are puny. The worst fine OSHA can impose for a work fatality is a mere $7,000 per day. Willful violations, on the other hand, are $70,000 per violation.
The fines are so small that some companies may decide to cut safety corners and just cough up the fines when accidents happen.
The lesson here is, don't expect OSHA to help you get compensated. You will need to rely on the Texas workers' compensation system for that.