In an important new decision, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that employers in Texas may not split their workforces, offering workers’ compensation coverage to some employees and denying it to others. While this decision likely means lower financial awards for some injured workers and for the families of workers killed in on-the-job accidents, it may actually benefit Texas employees in the long run. The ruling will ultimately assure workers’ compensation coverage for a wider range of Texas workers, especially those who suffer on-the-job injuries in situations that are not conducive to a finding of employer negligence. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a workplace accident in Texas, contact our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Bandas Law Firm today. Our law firm is located in Corpus Christi, and our knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers can help injured workers protect their legal rights and pursue the compensation they deserve.
HOW DOES TEXAS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION WORK?
The Texas workers’ compensation system is essentially a tradeoff that protects employees and employers following a workplace accident, but in different ways. For employees, workers’ compensation insurance means they have access to a guaranteed payout for injuries sustained on the job, without having to provide proof that another person’s fault or negligence caused the workplace accident. Employers in Texas, however, benefits from workers’ comp in that it protects them from lawsuits filed by injured workers and from the unpredictability of jury awards. Overall, workers’ compensation requires that employees waive their right to sue their employers in return for guaranteed benefits in the event of an on-the-job injury in Texas.
NEGLIGENCE LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST EMPLOYER FOR FATAL WORKPLACE INJURIES
Typically, employers in Texas are required to carry workers’ compensation for all of their employees, providing benefits for injured workers or the families of workers who are killed on the job. But are all workers in Texas really covered by workers’ comp? What about temporary workers or those who only work seasonally? This issue was brought to light in the case of Port Elevator-Brownsville v. Casados, in which laborer Raphael Casados, who was assigned temporary duty at a Texas grain storage facility operated by Port Elevator-Brownsville, suffered fatal injuries at work. The parents of Casados subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Port Elevator-Brownsville, and the jury awarded $515,167.09 to Casados’ estate and $2,189,967.76 to his parents.
TEXAS EMPLOYERS CANNOT DENY WORKERS’ COMP INSURANCE TO SOME EMPLOYEES
In most cases, workers’ compensation laws in Texas would prohibit an employee lawsuit for negligence against an employer, but Port Elevator-Brownsville did not pay premiums on its workers’ comp policy for Casados and other temporary workers. Texas Mutual, the company’s insurance carrier, denied coverage for Casados’ death, and the wrongful death lawsuit was allowed to proceed. The Supreme Court of Texas ultimately overturned the jury award for the claim of negligence against Port Elevator-Brownsville, declaring that Texas employers who take advantage of workers’ compensation protections have to go all in, so to speak. In Texas, unlike other states, private employers can choose whether or not to subscribe to the workers’ comp insurance system. However, the Supreme Court ruling indicates that if employers do subscribe, they cannot elect to offer coverage to some employees and not to others. If you have been injured in a workplace accident in Texas, contact our skilled workers’ compensation lawyers at Bandas Law Firm in Corpus Christi today.