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Articles Posted in Work Injury

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Every year, significant numbers of Texas workers suffer injuries and illnesses related to their employment. These injuries and illnesses range from relatively minor slip and fall incidents to serious life-threatening and debilitating accidents. In some circumstances, Texas workers who suffer injuries at work may be able to recover for their damages. The two primary ways a Texas worker can recover for their injuries is through workers’ compensation or a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.

Workers’ compensation is a government insurance program that provides medical benefits and lost wages to workers who suffer injuries on the job. Unlike most other states, Texas employers can choose whether they want to purchase this insurance. Even though coverage is not mandatory, Texas employers must notify all of their employees and the state if they choose not to provide coverage.

Work-related injuries can have long-lasting and potentially deadly consequences. For example, recently, a news source reported on the death of a third worker at a Texas energy well. The workers were at an oil well site near Austin, when a high-pressure release caused a fiery explosion. The victims were medevaced to hospitals where they succumbed to their injuries. The mother of one of the victims filed a case against the energy company and requested that the court order them to preserve the scene and any relevant evidence. Additionally, she asked the judge to issue an order that would allow her attorneys and family access to the site for an investigation.

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Bryan, Texas, February 8, 2020:  A  second explosion happened at one of Chesapeake Energy’s oil wells in the Eagle Ford Shale just two weeks after a Jan. 29 deadly explosion at a Chesapeake Energy oil well site in nearby Burleson County. Three men were killed and one man was left hospitalized in the Burleson incident. Bryan Maldonado, 25, and Windell Beddingfield died in what is the deadliest oilfield accident since January 2018.

Authorities are investigating the accident which occurred about 1 a.m. Saturday at a storage tank on the company’s Luther lease off Sandy Point and Old San Antonio Roads in a rural area of Brazos County about eight miles northwest of Bryan.

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Photo Credit: KWTX

(BURLESON COUNTY, Texas,  Feb 3, 2020)  Three oil field contractors have died and another is still in the hospital after an oil well blowout and the resulting fire in Burleson County, Texas.

The accident happened at a well site near Deanville, on County Road 127 and FM 60,  southwest of Bryan on January 29th.  The Chesapeake Energy owned well was undergoing major maintenance operations by contractors employed by CC Forbes and Eagle Pressure Control when the explosion occurred.

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Photo Credit: KTRK

(HOUSTON, January 27, 2020)  Two people were killed in a gas explosion in northwest Houston at a manufacturing warehouse on Friday the 25 at around 4:30 a.m. After the explosion the Houston Fire Department reported that 48 people had to be sheltered and 18 people were sent to local emergency rooms for injuries.

Officials have identified Gerardo Castorena Sr. and Frank Flores as the two victims who were killed in this fatal explosion.

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GALVESTON, Texas Jan. 14, 2020  — One person is dead and two others are missing after a boat crashed in Galveston on Tuesday around 3:35 p.m. approximately 1.5 miles offshore near East Beach. The Coast Guard said  four people were in the water in need of help after the 81-foot fishing boat named Pappy’s Pride and a 600 ft. chemical tanker called the Bow Fortune collided near the Galveston Jetties.

Coast Guard resumed searching for missing crew members of the fishing boat Pappy’s Pride that capsized after the collision near the Galveston jetties. Two fishermen were pulled from the water with the help of Good Samaritans nearby and were transported to the hospital. One of the fishermen died despite CPR efforts, the Coast Guard said.

The search for the remaining two is ongoing. Dense fog was impacting recovery efforts and forced crews to halt search efforts Tuesday night. Recovery operations resumed Wednesday morning. We will update the story as it develops.

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(Marshall, Texas –  January 5, 2020) Two people died and three were injured following a three-vehicle wreck just east of Marshall Sunday night. DPS troopers investigating the crash determined that Haley Lynn Carroll, 22, was heading east on US 80 in a Dodge Caliber when she stopped at CR 2218 intersection, waiting to make a left turn. 

A  Ford Mustang driven by Nathan Charles Guyer, 20, of Marshall, was also going east on US 80 behind Carroll’s vehicle, when he failed to stop and struck the Dodge Caliber. Police said the Dodge was then pushed into the westbound lane of US 80, where it was struck by a westbound Chevrolet Blazer driven by Jesse Wayne Wink, 69, of Marshall.

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December 31, 2019 Hutto, Texas – A local man was killed in an industrial accident Monday morning at Starfire Manufacturing located in the Tradesman Park Loop in Hutto.  The Williamson County Sheriff’s department reported that a man in his 60’s was at the location to borrow a forklift. A large metal booth already situated on the forklift tipped off and landed on the man killing him.  The victim was confirmed as not an employee of the company, Starfire Manufacturing. OSHA and Workers Defense Project have been contacted but is is not known if any violations had been committed.  

Industrial Accidents

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018,  there were 58 industrial fatalities in Texas from contact with objects and equipment.  Of these deaths, 57 were within the private sector of manufacturing of goods, construction, or transportation.  

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The state’s high court recently released an opinion in a Texas wrongful death case involving the death of an employee that worked for an independent contractor that was hired by the defendant property owner. The issue in the case was whether the property owner could be held liable for the employee’s death based on a theory of negligently hiring.

According to the court’s opinion, the property owner was an energy company that had hired a drilling company as a contractor to drill a well. A drilling company employee died while working on the well. He was working on the well when a rope caught on a pulley, causing a pipe to hit the employee in the head, which eventually resulted in his death. The employee’s family sued the energy company, alleging that the energy company negligently hired, retained, and supervised the drilling company.

A property owner can be held liable for a claim that harms an independent contractor or the contractor’s employees if the property owner controlled the work and knew or should have known of the risk or danger that caused the contractor harm. Under Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a property owner can be held liable for an injury to a contractor that is repairing, renovating, constructing, or modifying property, but only if the property owner controlled the work and “had actual knowledge of the danger or condition.”

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When a Texas employee is injured on the job, the injured employee can pursue temporary or permanent benefits under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. Workers’ compensation benefits can provide an injured employee benefits to cover their medical expenses as well as a portion of their income. Notably, workers’ compensation claimants do not need to establish that their employer was negligent to obtain benefits. However, workers’ compensation claimants are not eligible for compensation based on emotional pain and suffering.

Another option an injured employee has is to file a Texas personal injury lawsuit. Unlike workers’ compensation claims, successful plaintiffs in Texas personal injury lawsuits can obtain compensation for emotional damages. However, because a workers’ compensation claim is generally an injured employee’s only remedy against their employer, a personal injury case will typically only be available if a third party’s negligence caused the accident.

That being said, lawmakers have determined that workers in specific industries should be able to pursue personal injury claims against their employers. For example, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) allows railroad workers to pursue claims for compensation against their employers. Similarly, the Jones Act permits seamen to file a personal injury case against their employer. However, to recover under FELA or the Jones Act, a worker must show that the employer was negligent. A recent federal appellate case discusses an employee’s case brought under the Jones Act.

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When someone is involved in a serious Texas workplace accident, they may have several options when it comes to seeking compensation for their injuries. In general, a Texas employee who is injured on the job can pursue a Texas workers’ compensation claim. Under the Texas workers’ compensation program, an injured employee can pursue a claim for workers’ compensation regardless of fault. However, the major problem with workers’ compensation claims is that the type and amount of damages available are limited.

Generally speaking, if an employer has obtained workers’ compensation insurance, then a workers’ compensation claim is an injured employee’s only recourse against an employer. However, unlike most states, Texas does not require employers to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. If an employer is a “non-subscriber” to the workers’ compensation program, a plaintiff can pursue a traditional negligence action against the employee. In these situations, an employee’s damages will not be limited as they would in a workers’ compensation case.

As mentioned above, Texas workers’ compensation cases can proceed absent a finding of fault against an employer (even if the employee was partly responsible for their own injuries). However, some workplace accidents are the result of another party’s negligent conduct. In these situations, an injured employee may be able to pursue a Texas third-party liability claim against the negligent party.

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