Everything’s bigger in Texas – even its industrial accidents.
Texas’ economy is one of the largest in America and is home to six of the top 50 companies in the Fortune 500 list. While we will be focusing on the agriculture and energy industries, they also have aeronautics, defense, computer technology, health care, tourism and entertainment.
Texas is home to the most number of farms (and the largest farms) in the United States. These are usually devoted to cattle, goat and sheep products.
Agriculture is one of the most hazardous professions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, farming is far more dangerous than anyone realized. The real peril is due to the equipment used: tractors, combines and other slow-moving pieces of machinery that are nonetheless highly lethal. If a sleeve or ponytail gets caught in a combine, there is very little chance of escape.
It is also one of the few industries in which bystanders – family members and others who live and work there – are at risk simply because they’re on the property.
Farmers are at risk of many different injuries from various things, such as:
Tractor rollovers are still the number-one cause of death on farms. However, many die because of motor vehicle accidents (as city dwellers tend not to let their foot off the gas for slow-moving farm vehicles) or drowning (like in agricultural waste or a manure pit, just to name a couple).
Given that the state is enormous, Texas residents consume more energy than anywhere else in the nation. Texas has discovered more than 20 billion barrels of oil preserves and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas. Most oil companies have set up their headquarters in Texas, proving this to be the true energy capital of the country. Houston, Texas also leads the way in alternative energy sources, such as solar-, wind- and wave-powered generators.
The energy industry brings its own trials and challenges. Collecting oil and natural gas means drilling, as the resources get trapped in underground pockets of porous rocks. Workers drill wells so the crude oil travels upward toward the bore hole – however, only some of the many wells are successful, and not only oil and gas erupt from the surface. It generally is a mixture of gas, water and oil that must be separated before being transported.
While somewhat rarer, injuries in the oil and gas industry can still be fatal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common injuries were fires and explosions, contact by objects and equipment, and transportation incidents. The fires and explosions are obviously the most drastic events and are considered quite uncommon.
If you get hurt on the job in Texas, there are a few steps to take before you receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Tell your employer that you were injured
In Texas, workers’ compensation is governed by the Texas Department of Insurance. The law says that employees have 30 working days after the injury to report it to an employer. Provide your boss with written notification; a verbal “Hey, boss, I broke my leg” or “Hey, boss, I got hurt in an oil explosion” isn’t going to cut it here.
If you are in the hospital with severe injuries, one of your family members can provide your boss with written notification in your place.
See a doctor
Your boss will have a list of health care professionals who are covered under your workers’ compensation insurance. These are the doctors you should use during the duration of your claim. If you choose to use your personal doctor, the system might decline to pay your medical bills.
However, if your employer doesn’t provide you with a list of health care professionals, then you can elect to use your own. The best thing to do would be to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney in this scenario, because the doctor you end up using will be a large factor in determining what benefits you receive.
Your employer reports the injury to the insurance company
Under Texas law, your employer has only eight days to inform the insurance company of your injury.
Insurer pays or denies your claim
Once the insurance company evaluates the claim, they will either offer an admission of liability or deny the claim outright. This can also be called a “notice of contest.” Common reasons for denial are lack of information regarding the accident and the insurance company believing the accident was not work-related.
If you were denied workers’ compensation benefits, you should definitely speak with a Texas attorney. Industrial accidents are difficult to unravel and have multiple moving parts. If your claim was denied, an attorney can help you get the benefits you deserve.
The Texas Labor Code states that workers are entitled to four different types of benefits:
Unfortunately, many insurance companies try to minimize a workers’ compensation payout even if an injury is legitimate.
There might also be a third-party legal claim to be considered as well. Most injury claims will be shuttled through the workers’ compensation system; however, an attorney will be able to inform you whether there is a legitimate claim for negligence as well. If you were hurt by a big rig while transporting oil barrels, for instance, there are elements of negligence to be explored there – and the driver of the truck may be held liable.
As you can see, things are far more complicated than it may look at first glance. Make sure your benefits and your rights are protected by an attorney who is well-versed in Texas law.