How Can You Recover for Injuries Sustained in the Workplace?
In every state, there are laws establishing a workers’ compensation system, which offers a streamlined process for recovering compensation after a workplace injury. In many states, most employers are required to maintain a policy of workers’ compensation insurance and provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees. Texas, however, does not compel private employers to subscribe to the state’s work comp system. What are your rights and options if you are hurt on the job, but your employer does not participate in the Texas workers’ compensation system?
The Purpose of Workers’ Compensation
The Texas workers’ compensation laws were enacted to benefit both workers and employers. Injured workers typically have access to benefits more rapidly through workers’ compensation. An approved claim can typically provide benefits within a few weeks. Furthermore, because workers’ compensation is essentially a “no-fault” system, an injured worker won’t have to show negligence on the part of the employer. As a general rule, all the worker must show is that he or she was injured, and that the injury occurred at or through work.
For employers, the workers’ compensation system ensures predictability. The benefits paid to an injured worker are based on prior income (and medical expenses). Business owners don’t have to worry about a sympathetic jury giving a worker an exorbitant damage award.
What Are Your Options When Your Employer Opts Out of Workers’ Compensation?
If your employer does not subscribe to the Texas workers’ compensation system, you must file a personal injury lawsuit in the Texas civil courts to get compensation for your losses. The statute of limitations for personal injury in Texas is two years, so you must file your lawsuit within that period of time, or you’ll likely lose the right to recover for your losses. It’s in your best interests, however, to file legal action as soon as possible, so that you don’t run the risk that witnesses will die or disappear or that evidence will be lost.
There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to filing a personal injury lawsuit (rather than a workers’ compensation claim). One clear advantage of a personal injury action in court is that you may potentially recover more than you would in a workers’ compensation claim. Though juries can consider evidence about lost wages, they are not limited to giving you a fixed amount based on prior earnings.
The primary disadvantage of a civil lawsuit is time. Once you’ve filed your lawsuit, you’ll have to go through discovery (the gathering of evidence). Once discovery is complete, either party may file a wide range of motions. If you go to trial, that process alone can take days or weeks, and it may be months before you can get the trial scheduled on the court’s docket. It’s not unusual, in a personal injury lawsuit, for an injured party to wait several years before receiving any compensation.
Contact the Experienced Workplace Accident Lawyers at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we have extensive experience protecting the rights of people who have been injured at work. We will be your voice in all legal proceedings, as well as any dealings with workers’ compensation insurance companies, so we can maximize the amount recovered for your losses. Contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.