Work Injury Accidents & Workers’ Compensation 101
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Austin is the capital of Texas and boasts a wide variety of people, businesses, and entertainment. Texas’ capital is also home to a wide variety of workers, ranging from blue-collar workers in the rapidly developing south side of Austin to the white-collar professors at the University of Texas. When a worker is injured on the job due to their employer’s negligence, they may be able to hold their employer liable for damages. This article will explain the first step in handling a work-related personal injury claim or wrongful death claim: finding the right attorney. Furthermore, we’ll briefly cover the various topics that are addressed by a work accident claim. It is important that you retain an experienced Austin work injury attorney before pursuing a claim so that you are not overwhelmed by either proving the elements of liability or by aggressive insurance companies.
Step 1: Hiring an Attorney
First, let’s talk about how work accidents can occur. If you’ve been injured at work, the first thing you must do is assess your injuries and determine if they are serious enough to warrant a lawsuit. Back problems resulting from waiting tables or simply banging your knee on a table will not likely result in a valid claim against your employer. Simply put, the severity of the injuries does not warrant a lawsuit. However, if you have suffered an extreme burn injury or a traumatizing crush injury while working a construction job, you would likely have a strong work accident claim against your employer.
Step 2: Worker’s Compensation Claims and Nonsubscriber Claims
If you contact our attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, we will provide you with a free consultation to help you determine the validity of your claim. Once hired, we will then have to determine if your employer is a subscriber to the Texas Workers’ Compensation program. If this is the case, then you will not be eligible to file a lawsuit. Simply put, the workers’ comp program provides employers with a “bulletproof vest” that promises to protect them from negligence-based lawsuits by serving as the sole remedy for a work-related injury claim. This means that if you are injured on the job due to your employer’s negligence, the only way to receive compensation is by filing a workers’ comp claim – which has a damages cap that restricts the amount of money that can be paid to injured employees. If the employer is found to be guilty of gross negligence, however, then an exception can be made.
Why is this bad? In the event of a serious injury or a wrongful death, the injured employee or the family of the deceased worker will likely incur damages that far exceed the damages cap set by the Texas Workers’ Compensation program. Again, if the employer is a subscriber to Texas Workers’ Compensation, they will only be liable for the predetermined amount of money, regardless of what the plaintiff’s damages are actually determined to be.
However, if your employer decides to opt out of Texas Workers’ Compensation, or become a “nonsubscriber,” then they can be sued by an employee in a work-related personal injury or wrongful death claim. We have handled a significant number of work-related accidents over the years in the Austin area, and our lawyers are highly experienced in nonsubscriber claims.
Step 3: Seeing a Company or Private Doctor
Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but we recommend that you see a private doctor instead of a company doctor or one suggested by your employer. Even if you believe that your employer has pure intentions, they are still in the business of making money and are primarily interested in making sure that your injuries are minimized so that less money is paid out.
If you have seen a company doctor, it is important to understand that the company doctor has a vested interest in keeping their job. Since they are paid by your employer, they are also likely to be pressured by management to minimize your injuries so that you are eligible for less compensation – this is true whether you have a workers’ comp claim or a non subscriber claim. We have more information on this here.
Step 4: Identifying Elements of Liability
The elements of liability are what we hope to show to a jury in order to convince them that your employer’s negligence was indeed the cause of your work-related injuries. In a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, proving the elements of liability is crucial to being award compensation for your damages.
One of the elements of liability is covered by what Texas labor law refers to as “vicarious liability.” This means that the employer is liable for their employees’ actions if they injure another employee or person. Assuming that the injury was caused by an employee who was either negligently hired, retained, or trained, you may hold the employer liable vicariously. This is supported by the idea of respondeat superior, which is a Latin phrase translating to, “let the master answer.”
Outside of the examples that we’ve listed here, there are several other types of work injuries, and the rules for each can be very complex. Industrial accidents, for example, must typically be examined by OSHA after the occurrence, especially if they result in a fatality. Moreover, workplace accidents that involve heavy machinery also have special sets of rules and regulations associated with them.
Filing Your Work Accident Claim
Once our attorneys determine that you have a valid claim against your employer, we can then proceed with filing a claim. We will likely file your suit in state court; however there are some accident claims which need to be commenced in federal court. Unlike many other law firms, Grossman Law Offices has Austin work injury attorneys who are certified to practice in both state and federal court and we are incredibly knowledgeable in handling both types of claims.
Reaching a Successful Resolution
All of this research and discovery leads us to our end goal in your lawsuit: resolution. Sometimes we will be able to come to an out of court agreement with the defendant. This may be achieved through negotiations or mediation. But, we will only settle out of court if we believe it is in your best interest and we can ensure that you are receiving adequate compensation for your injuries. If the defense refuses to fulfill their obligation and pay you adequately, we will take your claim to court. It is here that we will use all of the information we gathered to convince a jury of the defendant’s wrongdoing and hopefully be awarded a large amount to sufficiently cover all of your current and future damages.
Anytime you suffer an injury, the process of filing a claim can be confusing. It can be even more challenging when dealing with an employer who is responsible for your harm. Fortunately, our Austin work injury lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have experience handling hundreds of personal injury claims and are more than qualified to assist you with your work accident lawsuit. If you have any questions about your potential claim and would like to know more about how we might specifically handle your claim, call Grossman Law Offices at 1-855-257-1111.