Articles Tagged with work injury

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Recently, two employees died, and 30 others suffered injuries after a chemical leak at a LyondellBasell Industries (LBI) plant in Texas. The company is one of the largest plastics, chemicals, and refining companies in the world. The Texas company boasts that its chemicals have provided modern ways to enhance food and water safety worldwide.

According to a recent news report, the chemical leak involved acetic acid, which is a common food preservative used to make vinegar. The blast occurred around 7:30 in the evening when a cap burst on a line of acetic acid. Acetic acid is a clear, flammable liquid whose vapor can be corrosive to the eyes and skin. The burst released approximately 100,000 pounds of an acetic acid chemical mixture into the air. In addition to acetic acid, the burst released hydrogen iodide and acetate. The combination of these chemicals can be toxic and cause severe burns. Emergency responders and investigators are still investigating the accident; however, they do not believe that an explosion or fire caused the leak.

Chemical leaks such as the one at the Texas plant can be toxic and deadly to anyone in the vicinity. Chemical spills and leaks often occur because of negligence surrounding safety regulations, equipment, or employee training. Companies should make sure to properly train their employees and workers to ensure that they understand how to prevent spills and mitigate harm if a spill does occur. However, many companies prioritize economic gain over employee and community welfare. When this occurs, the companies may pressure workers to complete tasks in an unreasonable amount of time. This can naturally result in workers cutting corners to meet production deadlines.

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collection-of-construction-safety-helmet-38070-300x197The Supreme Court of Texas recently issued an opinion in a case involving a property owner’s liability for injuries an employee contractor sustained while working on the property. The case arose when the two construction workers suffered injuries while working on a condominium project owned by the defendant. The defendant hired an individual instead of a general contractor to manage the project. A high-voltage power line hung behind the property, and the defendants told the project manager about the line because it was “too close” to the building. The project manager advised the plaintiffs to begin the project even though the power line was still intact. While working on the project, electricity shot down the rebar, and the power line snapped, causing the workers to suffer burns and other serious injuries.

The workers filed a negligence lawsuit against the power company and the defendants. The trial court entered a judgment per a jury finding that the property owner was liable under ordinary-negligence and premises-liability theories.

The defendant appealed, arguing that the employee’s evidence was not legally sufficient under Chapter 95. In response, the plaintiffs argued that the Chapter does not apply, the defendant waived some arguments, and the evidence was legally sufficient. Amongst several issues, the defendant argued that they could not be held liable because the danger was open and obvious. Under Texas law, a danger is open and obvious when the invitee possesses “knowledge and full appreciation” of the hazard’s extent and nature. Typically, when the danger is open and obvious, the property owner does not maintain a duty to warn of the danger or make the premises safe. Inquiries regarding whether a danger is open and obvious are not subjective but rather what a reasonably prudent person would have known. Courts will look to the totality of the “particular circumstances.”

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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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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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