Suffering an unexpected injury or illness at work can be devastating for both you and your family. Accidents that happen on construction sites often result in significant medical bills and lost time from work, with the additional stress of uncertainty about job security. If you do get hurt while at work, it’s important to understand your options for work injury coverage and compensation in Texas.
Texas’ Unique Laws
Unlike every other state in the U.S., Texas does not require private employers to carry workers’ compensation coverage. However, if an employer does have it, the trade-off is that injured employees typically cannot pursue a lawsuit against them. Filing a workers’ compensation claim is usually an injured worker’s only option for compensation. A claim will provide three main types of coverage that have set limits, including medical benefits, income benefits, and death benefits.
Under workers’ compensation law, most injuries and illnesses are covered regardless of who was at fault. As long as it occurred on the job and while doing an activity that was within your scope of employment. The exceptions that eliminate coverage are if the injury or illness occurred as a result of:
- A criminal act or self-injury
- Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Participating in an off-duty recreational activity
- A third party’s criminal act (if directed against the employee for a personal reason unrelated to the work)
- Act of God
After an injury, an employer must be notified within 30 days and there is a one-year deadline to file a worker’s compensation claim. The clock for filing a claim begins running from either the date of the accident or when the employee discovered or should have known about the injury or illness.
What if My Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Comp?
Employees have the right to sue a Texas employer for a workplace injury or illness if the company does not provide workers’ compensation. Additionally, The Texas Labor Code punishes these types of employers known as “Non-Subscribers,” by prohibiting the use of certain legal defenses that are typically available in most other personal injury lawsuits. This means, for example, that your employer cannot avoid liability for your injury by claiming:
- Assumption of the risk: you knowingly exposed yourself to the possibility of injury. (e.g. by taking the job)
- Contributory negligence: the majority of fault falls on you for your injury. (Even if you were partially responsible, your employer still may have to fully compensate you for your losses)
- Co-worker negligence: your injuries were not caused by the company, but by a coworker who failed to use reasonable care or do what they were supposed to do.
Non-subscribing employers are actually banned from utilizing any common law defenses. However, a successful lawsuit will still require you to show:
- You were injured while performing a task within the scope of your duties.
- Negligence on behalf of your employer. Negligence refers to any type of reckless or careless act (or inaction) that another reasonable person would not do if they were in the same situation.
Both of which can be complicated to prove without the help of an attorney. Additionally, there may be instances where a third party either shares some responsibility or is completely responsible (if your employer was not negligent in any way). If that is the case, a lawsuit can be filed against the third party to obtain compensation.
Contact an Austin Construction Accident Lawyer
At the Villarreal & Begum Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping workers and their families obtain the compensation they need after construction accidents in Austin. Call (512) 888-7777 to reach our Austin office directly, or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.