Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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collection-of-construction-safety-helmet-38070-300x197Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a decision in a lawsuit stemming from injuries an employee suffered at his workplace. The case arose when a general contractor subcontracted with the defendant to drill a foundation for a commercial construction project. The plaintiff was working as a lead superintendent for the project. On the day of the incident, the subcontractor’s crew began working on a new piling without sufficient grout, contrary to the company’s policy. The defendant’s foreman told the crane operator to rock the auger back and forth to free it from the solidifying grout. After several minutes the foreman told the operator to stop, as it posed a danger. However, the subcontractor’s superintendent overrode the foreman’s instructions and told him to continue. Despite concern that the situation was becoming increasingly dangerous, the subcontractor demanded that the operator continue. As a result, some of the crane’s rollers came off and crushed the plaintiff’s legs, ultimately requiring amputation of his legs.

The plaintiff received workers’ compensation and subsequently filed a lawsuit against the subcontractor for negligence and gross negligence, arguing that the subcontractor waived its exclusive remedy defense. Later the plaintiff amended his complaint, contending that the subcontractor intentionally injured the plaintiff.

In Texas, the Workers’ Compensation Act, (the Act) is the exclusive remedy for eligible employees who seek compensation for work-related injuries. This provision provides medical and disability benefits without considering the fault of either the employer or employee. The Act does not allow lawsuits for an employer’s grossly negligent behavior unless the conduct results in a fatal injury. However, an exception to the bar on lawsuits exists when an employer commits an intentional tort. In order to satisfy the exception, the plaintiff must establish that the employer “believed that its actions are substantially certain to result” in a specific injury to a specific employee, not “merely highly likely to increase the overall risks to employees in the workplace.”

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pexels-oliver-king-4067795-300x200Many Texans spend the majority of their time at work. As a result, San Antonio workplace accidents are very common, even for those with jobs that are not physically demanding. Indeed, an on-the-job accident can occur at any moment, and for almost any reason. Thus, all employees need to understand their options when it comes to recovering after a work-related accident.

There are two types of claims that a worker can bring after an on-the-job accident. The first, a workers’ compensation claim, is the more common of the two types of claims. The workers’ compensation system provides employees a simplified way to obtain compensation for a work-related accident without needing to prove that their employer was at fault. Because the workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system, these claims are typically quicker to process than traditional personal injury claims.

The main drawback of workers’ compensation claims is the availability of damages. Injured employees who successfully bring a Texas workers’ compensation claim can obtain benefits for their medical expenses, lost wages, and any decrease in earning capacity. However, unlike a personal injury case, a workers’ comp claim does not entitle an employee to non-economic damages.

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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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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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When a Texas employee is injured on the job, they may be able to obtain Texas workers’ compensation benefits until they are able to return to work. However, a workers’ compensation claimant is limited in the amount they can recover for their injuries. Typically, an injured worker can only recover for their medical expenses and lost wages.

A Texas personal injury claim, on the other hand, allows for an injured employee to recover more fully for their injuries, including for their pain and suffering. However, under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act, when a workers’ compensation claim is appropriate, it is usually the employee’s sole remedy against their employer. This means that an injured employee may be prevented from pursuing a personal injury case against their employer.

There are several instances in which an injured employee may be able to pursue a Texas personal injury case against one or more parties. For example, if a third party causes an employee’s injuries, the employee may be able to pursue a Texas third-party claim against that person or organization. Third-party claims do not implicate Texas workers’ compensation laws because the named defendant is not the injured worker’s employer.

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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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In a recent Texas construction case, the court considered injuries arising from the collapse of a crane on a commercial construction site. The issue the appellate court examined was whether the plaintiff was prevented from obtaining damages under common law, due to the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.

The case arose when the superintendent for the general contractor on a big construction project was injured in connection with the installation of pilings. To install pilings, the crew drilled a hole in the earth and then pumped grout into the hole. A steel rebar cage was dropped into the grout, which hardened around the cage to form a piling. Heavy machinery is used to build the piling. One of the subcontractors had adopted several policies to make sure the pilings were finished safely.

After a piling was completed, the crew had several cubic yards of grout left over, but the grout was insufficient to fully complete another hole. The superintendent of the subcontractor ordered the crew to start another piling. The foreman opposed this plan but agreed to follow it anyway. The superintendent of the subcontractor left, and grout was pumped into a new hole on the assumption that another shipment of grout would be arriving soon. That shipment was delayed, and the grout started to harden. When the grout finally arrived and was mixed into the old grout, the pressure under the old grout built up and caused the augur to shoot up. The cable backlashed, and the augur got stuck.

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In Tractor Supply Co. of Texas, LP v. McGowan, the plaintiff sued a tractor supply distribution company and related parties for personal injuries. The case arose when a temporary staffing company assigned the plaintiff to work in the tractor supply distribution center. Employees of the center trained, supervised, and instructed him on his job duties.

The plaintiff was working as a picker on the date of the accident. Another employee was loading a pallet and pushed another pallet loaded with dog food off the rack. This landed on the plaintiff, causing serious injuries.

The plaintiff prevailed at trial. The defendant tractor supply distribution company appealed, arguing that the court had made a mistake in depriving it of the exclusive remedy defense provided by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.

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In Palmer v. Newtron Beaumont, the plaintiff appealed on the basis that the trial court shouldn’t have granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff was an employee of Motiva who sued the defendant (Newtron Beaumont) when a Newtron employee stepped on him at the Motiva plant while getting down from scaffolding. The plaintiff argued that it was Newtron’s negligence that caused his injuries.

Newtron filed a summary judgment motion, claiming that it and Motiva had entered into an agreement whereby Motiva was to provide workers’ compensation insurance and employer’s liability insurance for Newtron and its employees when they worked for Motiva. The Motiva policy covered all of Motiva’s employees, including the plaintiff. Newtron argued that Texas law made Newtron Motiva’s deemed employee, and therefore it was the plaintiff’s fellow employee under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. This would make it immune from the plaintiff’s effort to recover workers’ compensation benefits.

In its summary judgment motion, the defendant argued that Motiva kept the right to implement and maintain its workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance. The motion further argued that the plaintiff was acting in the course and scope of his employment with Motiva at the time of the injury, and his exclusive remedy under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act barred him from filing a civil suit for work-related injuries against any of his fellow employees (such as Newtron).

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In Kroger Company v. Milanes, an employer that didn’t subscribe to workers’ compensation appealed from a final judgment in favor of its employee. The employee suffered serious injuries while cutting meat. On appeal, the employer raised multiple arguments, including the argument that the trial court had erred in submitting the plaintiff’s claim to the jury on a theory of general negligence rather than premises liability.

The plaintiff went through a one-day orientation before starting work in 2007. It didn’t include safety training, focusing instead on joining the union. He started out as a clerk in the meat department and was then promoted to apprentice meat cutter. As an apprentice, journeymen—more experienced meat cutters—trained him on how to use the meat cutters, including a bone-in band saw.

The plaintiff was trained a great deal by one particular journeyman, who he thought did a good job training him, but he never taught him to use a band saw blade guard as required by OSHA. He didn’t even know that the bone-in band saw had a blade guard for safety and was never given the operation manuals or warning labels. He thought it was used to line up the meat. The plaintiff eventually became a journeyman himself.

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