If you have been injured in a work-related accident, you may wonder what role fault will play as you seek benefits under the Texas workers' compensation system or from other sources. Here, we will consider when fault does and does not apply to workplace accident claims.
Workers' Compensation for On-the-Job Accidents
Nearly all employees in Texas are covered by workers' compensation, with few exceptions. Workers' compensation is an insurance program that offers medical treatment and financial benefits to workers who experience work-related injuries or illnesses. Eligible workers are covered for all types of workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses – regardless of fault. Workers' compensation is a no-fault system, meaning benefits are awarded not on the basis of who caused the injury but rather on whether the injury was related to a worker's job.
With workers' compensation, injured workers are spared the difficulty of trying to prove that their employers or others caused their injuries and may instead seek compensation simply because they were injured in the line of duty. Employers are similarly protected from being sued by workers for on-the-job accidents.
There are some exceptions, where a worker injured in a workplace accident may be considered ineligible for workers' comp benefits. The first exception is if the worker intentionally injured himself or herself. The second exception applies if the worker was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident. If a claim is being disputed based on these grounds, however, a worker may still be able to pursue compensation by proving them false.
Third-Party Work Accident Claims
In some cases, a third party may have been responsible for a worker's accident and resulting injuries. In situations like this, the injured worker may be able to file a separate personal injury lawsuit against the third party – in addition to seeking workers' compensation benefits. A good example of third party liability for a workplace accident is one that involves a defective or dangerous product.
Let us say that Bob, a construction worker, is working near a backhoe being operated by another worker at a jobsite. Suddenly, the backhoe malfunctions and the arm swings wildly in the air. The bucket strikes Bob in the arm and torso, causing broken bones and other significant injuries. If an investigation into the accident reveals that the machine was properly maintained but had a defect in the lever that controlled the arm and bucket, Bob may have grounds for a case against the manufacturer. In this case, Bob would have to prove how the defect caused his injuries, unlike a workers' compensation claim where he would only need to show that the accident was work-related.
Another example, and one that would require specific proof of fault, may be a work-related auto accident. If Jane drives a delivery truck for a living, and she is involved in an accident with another vehicle being operated by a distracted driver, she could pursue financial compensation from the at-fault driver. She would need to prove, however, that the other driver caused the collision. Jane may also be entitled to workers' compensation benefits because the collision occurred while she was working.
Pursuing compensation from a third party can be extremely beneficial after a work accident, because workers' compensation will only cover so much. It typically covers a portion of an injured worker's lost wages and medical treatment, but a claim against a third party may help an injured worker pursue additional damages for emotional trauma, pain and suffering and additional lost wages.
Interested in discussing a case involving a workplace accident? Call a Houston workers' compensation lawyer at Stern Law Group for a free consultation.