What is considered a work related injury?

What is considered a work related injury?

A work-related injury is any injury that occurs in the course and scope of employment. The easy way to describe it is if you are doing something in the furtherance of the affairs of your employer's business, then you're engaged in the course and scope of employment. If your boss says, "Hey, why don't you go across the street and make a deposit at the bank?" and while you're walking across the street, you slip and fall, that's in the course and scope of employment. Anything that you're doing where you're furthering the affairs of your employer, you're not doing something for personal business but you're doing something for work business, that's in the course and scope of employment. If you get injured doing those things, you need to talk to a lawyer.

How long does workers comp last in Texas?

How long does workers comp last in Texas?

Workers' comp in Texas lasts the entire lifetime for the claimant when it pertains to the medical care that the claimant receives. In other words, for your entire life, the workers' compensation insurance company is supposed to pay for all your medical pay that you need for your injury. It's different when it comes to the income benefits that you receive. Your income benefits only last up until the time that you return back to work, and then once you return back to work, you get something called an impairment rating, and you get paid three weeks’ pay for every 1% for the impairment, and even that is kept. So most people with workers' comp claims will get paid their benefits somewhere around one to two year, but then they do get medical care for the rest of their life. But we all know insurance companies want to wrap claims up, and they don't want to be paying on something for the rest of your life. So the insurance company is going to be doing everything they can to try and get your benefits cut off, which is why you need to see an attorney to make sure that you get the maximum amount of benefits that you are entitled to.

Can a car accident be a workers' compensation case?

Can a car accident be a workers’ compensation case?

Sometimes in certain situations, when you're driving to and from work, if you're involved in a car wreck, that is a workers' compensation claim. For instance, people who have places of business that are frequently changing, the common example is a plumber or an air conditioner repair man, those types of things. People that drive for work but they've got their company truck, they keep it at home, and they just drive from their house, those could be an on the job injury, if you're involved in a car wreck, driving to and from different customer locations. It's important that you talk to a worker's compensation lawyer to look at, investigate what exactly happened, so that that way, if it is a workers' compensation claim, you can make that claim.

All Work, No Pay

Take a moment to read this investigative journalism piece. Men sent to work at a chicken processing plant for "treatment" rather than go to prison. Chicken processing plants have high incidences of on the job injuries. Program participants that got injured on the job were sent to prison while the owners collected the workers compensation payments. Oh, and the husband and wife got $168,000 a year salaries and the processing company furnished someone to make $250,000 a year as a "consultant." While this was purportedly a "rehab" program, it is no different from the client stories we hear from workers in meat packing and chicken processing plants across Texas.  

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What happens to my workers compensation if I test positive for drugs or alcohol?

What happens to my workers compensation if I test positive for drugs or alcohol?

Often times, someone gets injured on the job and they're forced to do a urinalysis or a blood test and it tests positive for some type of an illegal substance. When that happens, their claim is denied. So the question arises, what do I do now? Well, it's important that you talk to a lawyer if you've tested positive for any kind of illegal substance, because just because you've tested positive, doesn't mean that your claim is barred. But what that does is is it shifts the burden of proof on a worker's comp case so, that the injured worker has to not only prove their claim, but the injured worker also has to prove that they had the normal use of their physical abilities and their mental abilities at the time the injury occurred. There can be some very important things with respect to your case, so it's very important that you talk to a lawyer if your claim is denied for testing positive for any kind of illegal substance.

What is the difference between a workers' compensation claim and a non-compensation claim?

What is the difference between a workers’ compensation claim and a non-compensation claim?

Texas is one of the few states where you don't have to carry workers' compensation insurance. There are employers in Texas that don't have workers' compensation insurance. it gets confusing because the employer may carry insurance and they may tell their employees that it's workers' compensation insurance but it's what we call an occupational benefit fund. It's a form of the insurance but it doesn't have the same protections that workers' comp has and it's not regulated by the state of Texas. In those situations, an employer can very well retaliate against an employee. The employer can do anything basically what they want to you. They just can't fire you for certain federal and protected things such as race discrimination, sex discrimination, those kinds of things but they can go and retaliate against someone if it is a non-Texas workers' compensation fund. If it's one of these occupational benefit plan type of situations. That's why it's important to talk to a lawyer so the lawyer can look at things and see just what kind of a case is this.

Can I sue my company for causing my injury?

Can I sue my company for causing my injury?

Unfortunately in Texas, if your employer carries workers compensation insurance, your only rights of recovery are through workers comp. That means that you can’t sue your employer for causing your workers' compensation injury. There are certain times when maybe you can’t sue your employer for causing your workers' compensation injury, but if someone else somehow did something wrong that caused your injury, you may have a claim against that third party. That’s why it’s important to talk to a lawyer and in particular, it’s good to talk to a workers compensation lawyer who knows both general personal injury law, as well as more specialized workers compensation law. Those cases are going to require someone that knows both of those things and knows how to navigate the law, both for general personal injury, as well as for the workers' compensation so that you can get the maximum recovery possible. In our offices, I've handled both the general personal injury type claims as well as of course, the workers' compensation claims.

Can the company I work for fire me for filing a workers' compensation claim?

Can the company I work for fire me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?

If you feel threatened by your company because you want to follow workers' compensation claim, don’t feel threatened. In Texas, it is illegal for a company to retaliate both against an individual who gets hurt on the job, as well as to retaliate against any other person who assists someone who’s been hurt on the job. For instance, if you get hurt on the job and you want to report your claim, absolutely do that. Also, if you need your witness statements, if you need to talk to other people to have them support any aspect of your claim, they don’t need to worry about being fired as well because it is illegal in Texas for a company to retaliate against someone for anything related to a workers compensation claim. It’s very important whenever you get injured on the job, the first thing to do is report the claim. The second thing you need to do is contact a lawyer immediately to get advice on things.

Can I just get a settlement and be done with it?

Can I just get a settlement and be done with it?

I get asked all the time, "Can I just take a settlement and just be done with this workers' comp insurance company?" In Texas, you can't do that. In Texas, when your employer carries workers compensation insurance, that protects them such that your only rights are through the workers' compensation system. The Texas Workers Compensation system does not allow for settlements. At the end of your case, you're going to get an impairment rating. That impairment rating is going to pay you three weeks pay for every 1% of impairment. Now at the end, what you can do is you can say, "I want to accelerate all of my benefits. I want to get my benefits paid in a lump sum." But I never ever, ever advise clients to do that. Because is you do that, another one of the things that you have to do, is you have to waive all entitlement to future benefits. Why would you waive a lifetime of medical care and also potential future income benefits all for a quick lump sum payment of just a few days or weeks worth of benefits?

I have been injured on the job, what do I do?

I have been injured on the job, what do I do?

When you're injured on the job, the most important thing for you to do is to report the claim. Now, most companies have a lot of peer pressure on their workers. Like they'll have some type of a policy that says if there's no lost time, people get bonuses and that sort of thing. And so there's a lot of peer pressure on you to not report that claim. But you need to report the claim. Certain time deadlines start whenever you report the claim. But also, certain time deadlines can affect you so that your claim can be barred if you don't report that claim timely. And so it's very important, whenever you get injured on the job, the first thing you do is report the claim. The second thing you need to do is contact a lawyer immediately to get advice on things.

How long do I have to make a claim?

How long do I have to make a claim?

When you get injured on the job, you've only got 30 days to let your employer know that you got injured on the job. So it's very, very important when you get injured you let somebody know immediately. Most kinds of personal injury cases in Texas, you've got two years in order to do something about your personal injury. On workers' comp, you only get 30 days. After you let your employer know within the 30 days, you're limited to only one year to let the insurance company know. 

Special Session Activity

Lawmakers to target Austin's worker protections on construction projects...(story by Texas Tribune)

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What to Do If You Are Injured on the Job

 Thousands of people are killed every year on the job, and multitudes of others suffer serious injuries. On-the-job injuries account for huge losses of time and productivity, but if you’re hurt at work, these concerns are secondary to your own. These injuries can prevent you from working, result in lost wages and even land you in bankruptcy thanks to high medical bills. Fortunately, there are workers compensation protections, and this is how you can become eligible. 

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Occupational Diseases at Cruising Altitude

One of my favorite Twitter feeds to follow is that of @Heather_Poole. Ms. Poole is a flight attendant and best-selling author of "Cruising Altitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers." I enjoy her tweets because in addition to random tweets about travel and life on a commercial airliner, Ms. Poole takes the time to tweet about issues that are important to society. She may be tweeting pictures of her latest travel destination one minute, the next she is tweeting about human trafficking or airline safety or women's rights. Unfortunately, the issue that has taken up most of her tweets lately is that of flight attendants getting sick on the job. What appears to have happened is the uniforms that crew members are required to wear are making flight attendants sick. In workers compensation parlance, we call this an occupational disease.

Everyone is familiar with workers compensation that pays for "specific event" injuries--the ones where a worker slips and falls or has equipment dropped them from above or is involved in a car wreck in a company vehicle. But if you develop a disease from being exposed to a toxin, you can collect workers compensation benefits the same as if you sustained a specific event trauma. So, if you worked as a sandblaster, for instance, and over many years you are breathing in silica and dust particles, or if you are a welder breathing in welding fumes over many years, you may be entitled to compensation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But these conditions are relatively easy to prove because the of the existence of scientific studies. Most occupational diseases, on the other hand, are exceedingly difficult to prove thanks to the impediments set forth by the court system and the Texas Division of Workers' Compensation.

To recover workers compensation benefits for an occupational disease, it is not enough to show that an injured worker was exposed to a toxin at work--the worker must also prove that the exposure is the cause of the individual's disease. So, for example, a person could work at a feed lot where cow birds are leaving droppings everywhere and if those bird droppings make the worker sick, that worker, working a minimum wage job, will have to be examined at a specialized hospital and tested for an occupational disease. Or another example might be a clean up crew that is contracted to go onto military bases and clean up the lead bullets from the firing range--then a worker gets lead poising. Another example would be at your local hospital where the housekeeping crew comes in to remove soiled linens and change the sheets--only sometimes the crew is accidentally exposed to harmful bacteria. These are all examples our office has encountered. They are also representative of the main problem with occupational disease cases. These cases are difficult to prove and usually occur in individuals the least able to afford to pay for testing.

It would seem that proving that the exposure to a toxin is the cause of a person's disease is common-sense approach to dealing with occupational injuries. But this over-reliance on medical proof eliminates other common sense approaches. The main common sense approach would be looking at other similarly situated employees. For instance, if everyone hired to clean up a firing range suddenly came down with lead poisoning, what are the odds that this didn't happen at work? If a bacterium is often found in hospitals but rarely found outside hospitals, what are the odds that more than one hospital employee sent to clean up a room would contract a disease from a particular bacteria exposure? Isn't there a place for looking at the workers as a class and asking about rates of incidents among them?

When you look through Ms. Poole's twitter feed, you see one account after another account, after another account, of flight attendants having allergic reactions to their uniforms. Their reactions are similar: hives, trouble breathing, swollen glands, sore throats. Under current Texas law, each individual flight attendant has to prove that for each person, they are sick from toxins found in their uniform and not from catching something from a fellow passenger or just getting sick at home. Ms. Poole found that the industry spent one million dollars on a study to determine that their uniforms were not hazardous to flight attendants' health. Think about the unfair bargaining power of the industry and their insurance companies versus each individual flight attendant. The industry has the resources to pay for studies saying there is nothing harmful in the uniforms. And yet, the numbers say that this just isn't true. In Texas, though, junk science beats common sense in a court room--because junk science can be bought if you have a million dollars.

 

Abuse of Drug Testing by Carrier Doctors

As the Olympics draws to a close, it is appropriate to compare the drug-testing done for Olympic athletes versus those done to Texas Workers.

Many states, including Texas, have a provision that creates a rebuttable presumption of intoxication when someone tests positive for drugs or alcohol.

However, a new use of drug testing is gaining in prominence in Texas Workers Compensation law that is an abuse of the workers’ compensation system.

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