Suffering a work injury can be a devastating blow to your way of life. Depending on your injury, you could be unable to work for a number of days, months or even the rest of your life. What are you to do if you find yourself injured in such a way? The Law Offices of Aaron Allison is ready to help.
Our law firm has provided competent and honest legal representation for injured workers and their families since 1978. We know that a work injury can seriously complicate a person’s life, making it difficult to earn a living or support a family. To help, we have assembled some key bits of information you need to know about the Texas workers’ compensation system. This information may help you understand where you stand if you should ever suffer an injury at work.
How Do I File Workers’ Compensation?
In Texas, employers are not required to carry workers’ comp insurance. This can lead to confusion for workers who suffer an injury on the job and are seeking compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. To file for workers’ comp benefits in Texas, follow this guide:
- Report the injury to your employer. You should do this as soon as possible. You have a 30-day deadline following an injury to report it. Once reported, your employer will help you get in contact with medical care professionals.
- File an Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease (DWC Form-041) with the Texas Department of Insurance’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). You can do this in person, by mail or on the DWC’s website. You have one year following the date of your accident or injury to file the form. If you do not notice your injury right away, you have one year from the date that you know or reasonably should know about your injury to file. The DWC will then notify your employer and its insurance company.
- If an employer denies your claim, you can challenge the denial through the DWC. If you cannot solve the dispute through negotiation with the DWC, you can ask for a workers’ comp hearing before a judge.
What Type of Workers’ Comp Benefits Do Texans Get?
Workplace injuries can result in extensive medical bills and lost income. Texas workers’ compensation can help you recover some monetary losses and arrange your medical affairs after a workplace accident. There are many complicated rules that apply when you file for workers’ comp benefits, especially in Texas. In addition, there are also different types of workers’ comp benefits in Texas.
- Temporary income benefits. These benefits cover a 70 percent difference from your regular weekly wages and your temporary income benefits. There is a weekly maximum of these income benefits that you will be able to receive.
- Impairment income benefits. These benefits may be available if you have a permanent disability. A doctor will determine what disabilities you have once you are fully recovered. These benefits are usually a 70 percent average of your weekly wages.
- Supplemental income benefits. These benefits start once your impairment income benefits have stopped. It’s calculated by taking the difference between 80 percent of your average weekly wages before your injury and your post-injury wages.
- Lifetime income benefits. If you suffered a permanent impairment, you may receive up to 75 percent average of your weekly wages.
Texas workers’ compensation also provides many other additional benefits. Some of these benefits include medical benefits, mileage reimbursement and vocational rehabilitation. Though workers’ compensation provides many benefits, it may only pay for a portion of your lost income and does not take into account any pain and suffering you endured from your injury.
How Are Workers’ Comp Benefits Calculated? And How Much Are Injured Workers Entitled to?
Your compensation benefits depend on your average weekly wage (AWW). To figure out your average weekly wage, you add your earnings for the 13 weeks prior to the injury, including things like overtime, other special pay and any non-pecuniary wages (wages that are not in the form of money, like health insurance premiums, vehicle, clothing, etc.) your employer does not continue after the injury. Divide that number by 13 and you have your AWW. If you were not working for the employer for 13 weeks prior to your injury, you can calculate AWW by using the earnings of an employee with the same or a similar job.
If you have more than one job and your work injury occurred while working for an employer with workers’ comp insurance, and the injury prevents you from doing your other job, you can report any wages to the insurance provider that are reportable for federal income tax purposes for consideration of lost wages.
Using these numbers, you can calculate your workers’ comp benefits, depending on which of the four types of benefits you are seeking.
What Injuries Qualify for Workers’ Compensation?
Thousands of employees in Austin work in various jobs in several industries. From manual labor positions to office workers, these employees can all suffer injury while on the job. Each work environment will have unique hazards that may put workers at risk for suffering severe injuries. Here are some of the workplace injuries these workers may suffer:
- Slip and fall injuries: If you work in an office, chances are you have seen custodial staff mopping floors. You have also likely seen others spill drinks onto the ground. These are examples of hazards that may lead to a slip and fall accident. Dark hallways or stairwells are also a possible slip and fall injury hazard.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Do you have a job that requires frequent and repetitive hand movements? Office workers, especially those who spend all day typing, may develop carpal tunnel syndrome. This musculoskeletal injury causes tingling, numbness or pain in the hands and arms.
- Musculoskeletal injuries: Carpal tunnel syndrome is not the only musculoskeletal injury you could develop on the job. You could suffer injury while moving and lifting office furniture, boxes, building supplies or other work-related equipment.
- Severe injuries: Broken bones, spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries, and back and neck injuries can all stop you from working instantly. In some cases, these injuries may have effects that last the rest of your life.
- Occupational illnesses: Occupational diseases can also arise from your work. For example, older office buildings may contain asbestos, a group of naturally occurring minerals that can lead to mesothelioma or asbestosis. We’ll go over these illnesses in more detail in the next section.
You may be able to file a workers’ comp claim if a workplace accident caused an injury or you developed an occupational disease due to your work duties. However, your ability to recover workers’ comp would depend on your employer and the circumstances.
Can I Receive Texas Workers’ Comp Benefits for an Occupational Disease?
You would need to demonstrate that your disease was a result of your occupation to receive workers’ comp benefits in Texas. The same criteria would be necessary to receive death benefits if you lost a loved one to an occupational disease. You may also receive benefits if you developed PTSD while working as a first responder.
Texas has more complicated workers’ comp laws than other states. In our state, employers are not required to carry workers’ comp insurance. Some Texas employers are nonsubscribers, meaning they do not carry workers’ comp. However, this also means it may be possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. The same could be true if a third party contributed to the development of an occupational disease.
What Occupational Diseases May Qualify for Workers Compensation?
An occupational disease refers to a chronic health condition caused by your job duties or work environment. Occupational diseases may include:
- Silicosis: Exposure to silica dust for an extended period could cause you to develop symptoms of silicosis. Silicosis is lung scarring caused by breathing in silica dust. Symptoms of silicosis include wheezing, chest pain and coughing.
- Asbestosis or mesothelioma: Asbestosis and mesothelioma are lung diseases caused by inhaling asbestos, a group of naturally occurring minerals that may be found in older construction materials or certain consumer products.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome/repetitive motion injuries: Workplace insurers and DWC may consider certain repetitive trauma injuries, such as carpal tunnel, an occupational disease. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, numbness or tingling in the arms, wrists or hands.
There are other types of occupational diseases. The key thing to remember is that an occupational disease causes damage to the body and arises out of and in the course of your employment.
Given how complicated it can be to seek compensation for an occupational disease in Texas, we encourage you to call the Law Offices of Aaron Allison. Austin personal injury attorney Aaron Allison could review your case to help you determine which types of compensation are your best options.
What Happens If My Spouse Dies While on the Job?
In Texas, workers who suffer injuries or death that occur during the scope of employment qualify for compensation. Our law firm understands the pain and struggle that the loss of a loved one in a work accident can cause. The personal grief and the financial uncertainty that comes with the death of a family member can be overwhelming. If you lose a loved one in a work-related accident, our law firm can help you seek out the death benefits entitled to your family, including lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, funeral and burial expenses and more.
What Type of Accidents Often Lead to Fatal Work Injuries?
Construction workers are more at risk for serious injury or death than laborers in other occupations. Statistics compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that 21.1 percent of fatal workplace accidents in the private sector occurred in the construction industry. During 2016, 991 construction workers lost their lives.
Fatal construction accidents have common causes. OSHA recognizes four common fatal causes of construction accidents. These causes include:
- Falls. Falls accounted for 38.7 percent (384 deaths) of the fatal workplace accidents in the construction industry during 2016.
- Struck by objects. Falling objects can strike and kill construction workers. OSHA statistics show that “struck by object” incidents accounted for 9.4 percent of construction deaths during 2016.
- Caught in-between objects. When caught between objects, machinery or structures, workers may fall victim to fatal construction accidents. This type of accident accounted for 7.3 percent of construction deaths during 2016.
- Electrocution. Construction workers can come into contact with deadly amounts of electricity. Electrocutions caused 8.3 percent of the construction industry deaths in 2016.
There is another cause of death that is not mentioned by OSHA’s “fatal four” statistics for 2016. Each year, motor vehicles hit and kill roadside construction workers. Motor vehicle collisions also cause construction worker deaths.
Why Would DWC Deny Workers Comp Death Benefits?
In order to qualify for workers compensation death benefits, the worker must have suffered a fatal injury while performing his or her job. This is a very specific requirement and can be tough to meet in certain circumstances. For example:
A worker employed by Bryant Electric Inc., drove to his office to deliver timesheets before heading to a worksite. An oncoming vehicle struck the worker and he lost his life. Later, his wife filed a workers’ compensation claim but the employer’s workers’ comp insurance denied the claim. The widow initiated an appeal with the DWC.
However, driving to work—despite having the timesheets to deliver—was non-compensable because the worker was not on the clock during his commute to work. He was not directed by his employer to proceed from home to the office or to the worksite at the time of the fatal injury. He also was not on a special mission from the employer. As such, the worker did not sustain his fatal injury while in the course and scope of his employment with his employer. DWC denied the appeal.
Questions About Workers Compensation?
This blog only covers a small portion of the ins and outs of workers’ compensation in Texas. If you want more information about workplace injuries and workers’ compensation, you should speak to a workplace injury attorney. Many personal injury attorneys in Central Texas do not handle straight workers’ comp claims.
The Law Offices of Aaron Allison are proud to support the rights of injured workers and have handled many cases against major Texas employers. Austin workplace injury attorney Aaron Allison can help you determine the best strategy to help you get the compensation you need, whether that means filing a workers’ compensation claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit against a third-party. Call (512) 474-8346 today to schedule a free consultation.