When you’ve been injured in an accident at work in Texas, you have the right to seek benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program. But that may not be your only recourse. Here’s how it works.
The workers’ compensation laws were set up as part of what’s often referred to as the “great bargain,” designed to provide benefits to both workers and employers. For workers, the workers’ compensation system allows you to recover benefits without a lot of the hassle and expense of filing a lawsuit. You may have to take your claim to a referee or workers’ compensation judge, but the process customarily takes a lot less time. If your claim is initially approved, you can be receiving benefits within a number of weeks. Compare that with a civil suit for damages, where it can take six months or more just to complete discovery and another year or more before you go to trial… and you won’t receive a single penny until the lawsuit has run its course, including appeals.
For employers, there’s also a benefit—you don’t have to worry about a sympathetic jury returning an exorbitant jury award to an injured employee. The workers’ compensation system has fixed benefits, based on the worker’s wages and degree of disability.
Workers’ compensations was designed to be the exclusive remedy for an injured worker for losses caused by the negligence of an employer or co-employee. In most instances, it is the only avenue of recourse. However, if the injuries suffered were caused, in whole or in part, by an unrelated third party, an injured person may seek damages from that third party in a separate lawsuit in civil court, in a proceeding unrelated to the workers’ compensation claim.
Accordingly, if your injuries were the result of negligence by someone other than your employer or a co-worker, you can file a lawsuit. In fact, if your employer or a co-employee was partially liable and a third party also had some liability, you can simultaneously file a workers’ compensation claim and a civil suit.
Examples of injuries for which you could file a third-party claim include:
- Injuries suffered in a work-related motor vehicle accident, where the at-fault driver was neither your employer nor a co-employee
- Injuries caused by the negligent design or manufacture of a product, tool, machine or device
- Injuries caused by workers or conditions on property adjacent to that of your employer
It’s important to understand, though, that when you file a third party lawsuit, there are potential benefits and consequences. You won’t be limited to a fixed amount of damages, but you’ll also have to wait a long time before you see any compensation.
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.