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:
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.
If a worker is hurt or killed at a construction site, the employer, property owner and/or manufacturer may be held liable.
Construction accidents often involve devastating injuries. The expenses and bills pile up fast:
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
Below are the general steps to file a workers' compensation case in Texas.
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.
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.
Texas law states that your employer has eight days to tell the insurance company about your injuries.
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:
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.
Texas Labor Code Sections 408.081-408.187 states that you are entitled to four types of workers' compensation benefits:
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.
Remember, many Texas companies will fight to minimize your workers' compensation claim. Make sure your rights are protected by a good workers' compensation attorney.