Posted On October 24, 2016 In Workplace Accidents
Employers in Texas are not required to carry workers’ compensation. Some may use occupational accident insurance and others may not carry any type of coverage. For employers that use workers’ compensation, there are some important nuances to understand before discussing third party lawsuits in Texas.
In the event you suffer an on-the-job injury and your employer uses workers’ compensation, you will most likely be unable to file a lawsuit. Injured employees use workers’ compensation to pay for medical bills and lost income. Workers’ compensation benefits do not allow for a pain and suffering damages.
There are still scenarios where injured workers can file lawsuits, even if their employers are using workers’ compensation. These are called third party lawsuits. As the name implies, third parties may be responsible for on-the-job injuries. This can include the manufacturers of equipment used on job sites, contractors, subcontractors and other motorists. Third party lawsuits allow for pain and suffering damages, and can result in much larger awards.
James works for a Lufkin construction company that has been contracted to help build a new community center. Another company has been hired by James’ employer to install electrical wiring for the construction project (making this second company a subcontractor). One day on the job site, James walks in front of a loose wire that has been left out in the open. Thousands of volts surge through James’ body and he is badly burned.
An air ambulance arrives and James is flown to the nearest hospital with a burn unit. When he wakes from his medically induced coma, doctors tell James that he has suffered third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body, and that the fingers on his left hand had to be amputated. An investigation reveals the subcontractor hired to do the wiring is responsible for the accident.
James is not employed by the electrical subcontractor in our story, making it a third party. This third party’s negligence caused James’ injuries, and he may have a claim. If James files a lawsuit against the electrical company, he should still use workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation will help pay his medical bills and lost wages while the lawsuit against the subcontractor is underway.
If James is successful in securing a judgment or reaching a settlement with the subcontractor, he would be required to pay back the insurance provider that provided him workers’ compensation benefits out of a portion of his award. This is a process known as subrogation. Depending on the size of the judgment or settlement agreement, the amount subrogated can be small in comparison.
Workers harmed by the negligent actions of others should know what options are available to help aid in the recovery process. The Texas personal injury attorneys at Mike Love & Associates, LLC, can help injured workers and their families explore available options.