The state has also adopted hazard communication standards for public employers and farmworkers that are more strict than OSHA’s. The standards are administered by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
The Jones Act, or the federal Merchant Marine Act of 1920, covers seamen who are injured on the job. The Jones Act is notable for providing a lower standard of proof in pursuing personal injury claims. An employer’s negligence can be only one of what may be several contributing factors, and the employer can still be held liable for damages.
This figures significantly into the Texas employment landscape because workers on floating oil rigs, jack-up rigs, or ships used for oil refinery purposes may be covered under the Jones Act. If the rig is permanently fixed to the ocean floor, however, those working on it are covered under the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine if you qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act.
Common Workplace Injuries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most frequently sustained workplace injuries are caused by:
- Overexertion and bodily reaction: 31% of all injuries in 2019, or 27 per every 10,000 full-time workers. Average lost time at work: 13 days
- Slips, trips, and falls: 27.5%, or 23.9 per every 10,000 workers. Average lost time at work: 13 days
- Contact with objects/equipment: 25.8%, or 22.4 per 10,000 workers. Average lost time at work: five days
Rounding out the list are transportation incidents, violence and other injuries by persons or animals, exposure to harmful substances or environments, non-classifiable, and fire & explosions. All of these account for 6% or less of all injuries.
Steps to Take Following an Injury
If your company is covered by workers’ compensation, you must report your injury to your supervisor or employer, who will alert the insurance company or state provider of the insurance. Workers’ compensation, which is optional in Texas, is designed to relieve both employer and employee of liability. It will typically cover medical expenses, lost wages due to days away from work, rehabilitation services, as well as disability and death benefits. Workers’ compensation also shields the employer from personal injury lawsuits in most situations.
According to the Texas Department of Workers Compensation (DWC), about 28% of employers in the state do not offer workers’ compensation insurance. These employers are called “non-subscribers.” Without coverage, they are vulnerable to personal injury lawsuits if their negligence is determined to be the cause of the accident. Note: some employers will apply to DWC to self-insure, so they will also be exempt from lawsuits if the request is granted.
You should document everything that happened and seek immediate medical evaluation and treatment. Retain copies of all medical expenses. If you’re filing your injury under workers’ compensation, certain rules may apply as to choosing a doctor or getting a second opinion, so be sure to check. Also, and perhaps most importantly, you should consult with a personal injury attorney immediately to discuss your rights.
Possible Claims Against a Third Party
If your injury at work resulted in any way from equipment that malfunctioned, had a built-in defect, or was not provided with proper safety and operating instructions, you may have grounds to file a third-party lawsuit against the manufacturer, designer, or supplier for your injury. Again, an experienced personal injury attorney can help assess this for you.
Construction site injuries are also often caused by being struck by a motorized vehicle or piece of equipment, in which case you may have a claim against the driver/operator.
If you qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, you also have an additional avenue for seeking compensation for damages through legal action.