Employer Liability for Wrongful Death in Texas
As a general rule, state law requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all their employees. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and Texas is one of them. While it is not mandatory to provide workers’ comp insurance, many do anyway. However, those that do not are described as “non-subscribers.”
Usually, failure to subscribe to workers’ comp insurance is a cost-saving initiative, however it can often prove more expensive in the long run, as it leaves employers vulnerable to all kinds of workplace accident lawsuits. Even if they do not offer workers’ comp, employers are expected to follow all notice and filing requirements of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act.
Workers’ Compensation System: Advantages for employers
As stated by an experienced negligent death attorney in West Houston, a key benefit of the Workers’ Compensation System is the limit it places on the potential for legal recourse in the event of a workplace accident or injury. Any injured employee is required to apply for benefits or compensation via this system, and these benefits are strictly regulated. Typically, they consist of the following:
- Funding to cover any reasonable medical requirements or treatment as a result of employee illnesses or injury
- Funding to cover lost income/wages
- Funding to cover funeral expenses and death benefits for the family of a victim of a work-related death
This is effectively a “no-fault” system. That means it is not necessary for an employee to legally establish negligence or malpractice on the part of the employer in order to receive their rightful benefits. On the other hand, the employer is protected from any additional liability.
As a general rule, employees are not permitted to pursue legal action against their employer because of a workplace injury. Their sole recourse is to claim benefits available via The Workers’ Compensation Act.
Wrongful Death Claims and Non-Subscriber Employers
Subscribing employers can only be liable for damages in a wrongful death claim if the spouse and/or children of the employee are able to provide proof of gross negligence. Employers who subscribe to the aforementioned compensation system cannot be made liable for actual damages.
As you can imagine, the situation is rather different for non-subscriber employers. The standard system for workers’ compensation does not come into play at all, and the pursuit of a wrongful death claim in Texas is treated in the same way as any other personal injury claim. One key benefit of this is that families can sometimes obtain much larger monetary settlements from employers. However, pursuing a personal injury claim is a slow and complex process which can result in considerable delays in obtaining a result. Whereas the workers’ compensation payout can be obtained pretty quickly, a personal injury claim can be very protracted and distressing.
Non-subscriber employers will find themselves limited with regard to the defenses they can use in a lawsuit for damages. For instance, they are prohibited from using the following defenses:
- The employee in question was aware of the risks and accepted them
- The injury was caused by another employee, rather than the employer
- The employee’s own negligence was responsible for the injury
While employers may provide all kinds of alternative coverage for their employers such as accident, disability and health insurance, these are NOT substitutes for workers’ comp.
Everybody has the right to fair treatment and rightful compensation. If you’ve suffered an injury as a result of your employer’s negligence, it’s vital that you make a stand and obtain the benefits you deserve. With that in mind, your first step is to find the right qualified attorney who will provide guidance and support, and fight for you every step of the way.