Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and safe tools and equipment for their workers. If you have been hurt on the job, you may have been told that you have no right to seek compensation for your injuries and losses except through a workers’ compensation claim. In Texas, however, if your employer does not have workers’ compensation then you may be able to recovery benefits directly from your employer. Employers who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance are considered “non-subscribers” and have limited defenses to injured employee claims.
“Non-Subscriber” Work Injuries
What is a non-subscriber?
Many of Texas’s largest employers – like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Costco, Target, Lowes, Kroger, Fiesta, and Amazon – do not carry, or “subscribe to,” workers comp insurance. These companies are known as non-subscribers, and cases where workers are injured while working for non-subscribers are known as non-subscriber cases. Some non-subscribers carry other insurance that is like work comp, but in fact is not.
In most personal injury claims the defendant (the person or company who is being sued because they caused the injury) is allowed to attempt to blame the plaintiff (the injured person who filed the lawsuit). At the end of a jury trial, the jury puts a percentage of fault on both the plaintiff and the defendant. Importantly, any amount of blame placed on the plaintiff will reduce his or her recovery.
For example, if the jury assess damages at $100,000 and assigns 10% of the fault to the plaintiff and 90% of the fault to the defendant, the defendant will be ordered to pay the plaintiff $90,000; the plaintiff’s recovery was reduced by 10% due to his or her own fault in causing the injury.
How are non-subscriber cases different?
However, if you are injured at work while working for a non-subscriber, Texas law is very generous: the employer is not allowed to try to blame the worker for their own injuries. In fact, if the employer is found to be just 1% at fault in causing the injury, the employer is on the hook for 100% of the damages.
The most common ways in which employers are found liable for their workers’ injuries is bad training, unsafe working conditions, unsafe machinery, tools, and instruments, poor safety gear, co-worker negligence, and inadequate safety policies. Again, if the non-subscriber is found just 1% at fault, they must pay 100% of the injured worker’s damages, including lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and physical impairment.
Additionally, in many workplace accidents there are often third parties — product manufacturers, vendors, suppliers, clients, contractors, subcontractors, etc. — who are responsible for any injuries that their employees may cause. If you are injured at a work place by some other third party’s employee then you may be able to bring a personal injury claim against that company. These personal injury claims against responsible parties other than your employer are called “third party claims”. In cases such as these, you can obtain compensation in addition to any benefits you may receive through workers’ compensation. It’ is important to move quickly, however, as evidence is often lost and witnesses’ memories fade quickly.
Typical examples of accidents that could involve third-party claims include:
An roofing worker falls through an improperly covered hole while performing his work.
An auto mechanic is hurt by a faulty air compressor
A warehouse worker is struck by a vehicle operator at his place of employment.
A machine operator is hurt by a negligently maintained machine.
A factory worker is injured when a third-party vendor operating a forklift at the job site drops a stack of boxes that were poorly loaded
A machine operator is injured by a defective product.
A delivery driver falls on a negligently maintained staircase at an office building where she is delivering a package
If you or someone you know has been seriously injured or killed in a workplace accident, STAY STRONG! Call Warren Armstrong at Armstrong Law.