Articles Posted in Work Injury

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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.  

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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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  1. Property owners can try to evade liability in some personal injury cases by claiming that a contractor was at fault for an accident. However, even when a contractor is used, property owners may still be on the hook. In a recent case before a Texas appeals court, the court explained why a refinery could still be held liable after a contractor’s employee was injured while the contractor was completing repairs.

The plaintiff, a supervisor, worked at a company that was providing maintenance and repairs at a refining facility in Texas. He was injured at work one day when hot liquid sprayed out of a pipe, causing him to suffer severe burns. A solution of raw bauxite dirt and sodium hydroxide called “process liquor” was being pumped through the pipes. Because the process liquor caused residue to build up in the pipes over time, the pipes had to be cleaned from time to time. Some employees were using a jackhammer to remove a deposit that had formed in a pipe when hot liquor sprayed out of the pipe and onto the employee.

The plainitff had to be airlifted to the hospital due to the severity of the burns. He alleged that the refinery was negligent in failing to ensure that the liquor was emptied from the pipe before allowing work to begin. The employer argued that the refinery was not liable for his injury under Chapter 95 of Texas’s Civil Practice and Remedies Code, because the work was being done by a contractor.

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Earlier this month, the state’s high court issued a written opinion in a Texas workplace injury case requiring the court to determine whether the trial court was acting within its discretion when it precluded video evidence without actually viewing the video. Ultimately, the court concluded that “except in rare circumstances,” a court must observe a video before determining if it should be admitted into evidence.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a senior mechanic on an offshore drilling rig. One day while at work, the plaintiff injured his back. The plaintiff underwent two back surgeries within 13 months, but the pain remained. He was never able to return to work. The plaintiff’s physician determined the plaintiff was “totally disabled.”

The plaintiff filed a workplace injury claim under the Jones Act, claiming that his employer was negligent and that the drilling rig was not seaworthy. After the case was filed, the plaintiff underwent a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) to determine his physical abilities. The results of the FCE indicated that the plaintiff’s responses were consistent with someone who was exaggerating their symptoms.

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In a recent case, the state’s Supreme Court ruled against a plaintiff in a Texas workplace injury case. The plaintiff was employed by an energy company, where his employer and another energy company were drilling for oil. The incident that resulted in this lawsuit occurred when an employee of the other energy company asked him to clean up a spill of fracking liquid; however, the employee did not provide him with any protective gear. Evidently, the liquid contained toxic chemicals that came into contact with the plaintiff’s body. The plaintiff’s skin was burned when it came into contact with the liquid, and within hours, he was in severe pain. About four months later, he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer.

Procedural Posture

About two years after being diagnosed with cancer, the plaintiff sued several entities but did not include the energy company that employed the employee who instructed him to clean up the spill. However, shortly thereafter, the plaintiff amended his petition to include the company, alleging that it was negligent in allowing the liquid to leak and asking him to clean it up without protective measures. He argued that the company was liable for his cancer, which was a new illness that developed from his exposure.

The energy company argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because the claim was filed past the statute of limitations. The plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations was tolled because he could not have known about their negligence until after he was diagnosed with cancer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the company, and the court of appeals then reversed the decision. The defendant then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case involving the question of whether the defendant employer could be held liable for the allegedly negligent actions of an employee. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court improperly granted the defendant employer’s motion for summary judgment, finding that a genuine issue of fact remained as to whether the employer was vicariously liable. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked for a company that drilled oil and gas wells. On this particular job, the plaintiff and the rest of the crew were put up in company housing about 30 miles away from the drilling site. A contract between the plaintiff’s employer and the owner of the land where the wells were to be drilled stated that the supervising crew member would be compensated for driving the crew members to and from the drilling site.

Thus, for this particular job, the plaintiff’s crew supervisor provided the plaintiff and the rest of the crew with transportation to the drill site. One day, the supervisor was involved in a car accident that killed two members of the crew and injured the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employer, arguing that it was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s negligence in causing the accident.

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