On-the-job injuries and occupational illnesses happen regularly. Across the U.S., 2.7 million workers reported a work-related injury or illness in 2020. That same year, over 210,000 Texas employees across all industrial sectors got injured or sick while working.
Unlike many states, Texas does not mandate workers’ compensation for all employers. Instead, Texas caps an employer’s exposure if it gets workers’ comp insurance. This has encouraged over 70% of employers to cover over 80% of employees for job injuries.
Because of this mixed system, your right to compensation could depend on your actions. Here are the top five mistakes you can make after a job injury.
Subscriber Employers vs. Non-Subscriber Employers
Texas refers to employers with workers’ compensation insurance as “subscribers.” Non-subscribers lack workers’ compensation insurance. You have different rights depending on whether your employer carries workers’ comp insurance.
When your employer has workers’ comp insurance, the insurer provides workers’ comp benefits without examining fault. In other words, you get your benefits even if the accident resulted from:
- Your negligence
- Your employer’s negligence
- A co-worker’s negligence
- Faulty safety equipment
- An unfortunate and unpreventable circumstance
You will receive the same benefits in all these situations.
The trade-off is that you receive limited benefits. You will receive full coverage for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment, therapy, and medication.
But you will only receive 70% or 75% of your average weekly wage, depending on whether you earn more or less than $10 per hour. And if you receive workers’ comp benefits, you cannot get compensation for pain and suffering.
When your employer lacks workers’ comp insurance, you must sue the at-fault party for compensation. In other words, your compensation is not guaranteed. Instead, you must get a settlement or damage award for your injuries.
To win a lawsuit, you must prove that your employer acted negligently. Some examples of negligence that can lead to an on-the-job injury include negligence in:
- Supervising workers
- Supplying safety equipment
- Maintaining or repairing equipment
- Protecting employees from customers and co-workers
- Developing or enforcing safety rules
Since you must meet a much higher bar to win a lawsuit, you also have fewer restrictions on your damages. If you successfully win a lawsuit against your employer, you can recover:
- All past and future medical expenses
- All income lost
- Any future diminishment in earning capacity
- Compensation for pain and suffering
You might receive substantial damages, particularly if your work-related accident permanently disabled or disfigured you.
Common Mistakes After a Job Injury
Whether your employer carries workers’ comp insurance or not, your actions after an injury can jeopardize your right to compensation. Some common mistakes made by workers include:
1. Failing to Check Whether the Employer Has Workers’ Comp
Your employer’s status as a subscriber or non-subscriber will determine your responsibilities and deadlines for recovering compensation. If you fail to take the required steps, you could lose your right to compensation.
If your employer carries workers’ comp insurance, you must report your injury to your employer within 30 days. You must also file your claim within one year of the injury. Missing these deadlines will give the workers’ comp insurer the excuse to deny your claim.
If your employer opted out of workers’ compensation, Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If you fail to file a lawsuit within two years after the accident, a judge will dismiss your case.
2. Neglecting to Report the Injury to Your Employer
Under Texas law, you must report your injury to your employer to receive workers’ comp benefits. If you have an occupational illness, like a repetitive stress injury, you should report it as soon as you notice it.
When you report your injury to your employer, you:
- Satisfy workers’ comp law
- Create an obligation by your employer to contact its insurer
- Prompt Texas’s Division of Workers’ Compensation to send claim forms to you
If you do not notify your employer of your injury, none of these steps can happen.
Even if your employer lacks workers’ compensation insurance, you should still put your employer on notice of your injury. Your employer likely carries general business liability insurance and needs to notify its insurer of your claim.
Your notification will also help you to document your claim. If you fail to notify your employer, you open yourself up to allegations that:
- You faked your injury
- You exaggerated the severity of your injury
- The timing of your injury is suspicious
- You concealed the cause of your injury
While you have no deadline for notifying a non-subscribing employer, you should provide notice as soon as possible after your injury.
3. Forgoing Medical Attention
Under Texas workers’ comp law, your employer or its insurer can designate the doctor you must see. You should always seek medical attention after a work-related injury or illness. This will create a record of your injury, including the nature of your injury and when it happened.
The doctor will diagnose your injury and prescribe a course of treatment. If your injury prevents you from working, the doctor will provide you with a note. This note will help you support a claim for lost wages due to your injury.
4. Ignoring Your Doctor
You should follow all of the instructions your doctor gives you. If you fail to follow your doctor’s orders, you could get blamed for worsening your injuries. As a result, the workers’ comp insurer or your employer might only bear liability for part of your medical expenses. The expenses associated with your aggravated injury will fall on you.
5. Admitting a Role in the Accident
When you file your injury claim, you will need to describe what happened. When you submit your description, stick to the facts and tell the truth. But also beware of admitting a role in the accident.
While insurers provide workers’ comp benefits without regard to fault, they can deny claims where you intentionally violated a safety rule. And non-subscriber employers may use comparative fault to reduce your damages in proportion to your role in the accident.
Getting Advice After Your Injury
Injury lawyers have experience with both subscriber and non-subscriber injury claims. Most injury lawyers offer a free consultation. Use these consultations to make sure you take all of the proper steps after a job injury to maximize your odds of getting a fair outcome.