Construction Accident Near Downtown Houston Sends Nine to Local Hospitals
According to the Houston (TX) Fire Department and local news media sources, an accident at a downtown Houston construction site has sent at least 9 workers to local hospitals and caused minor injuries to an unknown number of others present at the site.
Early reports state the accident occurred a few blocks north of Downtown Houston at the site of a hotel under construction on the 3400 block of North Main Street. Early reports suggest that the 9 workers who required transport to medical facilities received non-critical injuries such as fractures and dislocations and that no on-site deaths have been reported.
Texas law and injured workers
The ongoing economic upswing continues to benefit the Greater Houston / Harris County area, leading to a number of new construction and building renovation projects. As a consequence, the number of workers who have been injured on the job and are thus eligible for Workers Compensation benefits through their employers. In the majority of such injuries, this system works to the worker’s advantage without the need for legal assistance. However, there are instances where the system “breaks.”
Unlike other states, Texas does not require an employer to carry Workers Compensation insurance. However, Texas law does require that certain types of employers must either 1) purchase such coverage from a private insurance company or 2) prove to the Texas Workers Compensation Commission that the company has the financial assets provide at least the minimum benefits that would be available from a private Workers Compensation insurance carrier. Under Texas law, construction companies must provide these benefits to their workers.
In Texas, as in other states, Workers Compensation is considered a form of “no fault” insurance. This means that the worker does not need to prove that an employer’s negligence was the cause of the worker’s injury and the employer cannot require an injured worker prove that an injury was work-related. By making Workers Compensation a “no fault” program, benefits are immediately available without the need for a worker to file a lawsuit against his or her employer. In fact, Workers Compensation law forbids worker lawsuits against employers except under a narrow set of conditions!
In order to file a lawsuit over an on the job injury, an injured worker must be able to prove that:
- The employer was grossly negligent by providing a job site that was unnecessarily dangerous, or
- the employer deliberately caused the worker’s injury, or
- a “third party” was at least partially responsible for the worker’s injury.
Since Workers Compensation law generally prohibits lawsuits against employers, most personal injury lawsuits arising from on the job injuries allege that a negligent “third party” was the cause an injury.
What is a third-party lawsuit?
In civil lawsuits, such as those arising from an accidental injury, three “parties” may be involved. Using today’s accident as an example, these parties are:
- The first party, who is an injured worker.
- The second party, representing the employer.
- The third party, operating independently of the second party, whose actions (or inactions) are alleged to have caused an injury.
As an example of a third party, suppose a contractor is using a crane at a job site and that, while the crane is lifting a load, a hydraulic line ruptures and causes the out-of-control load to strike a worker. Since the contractor was not responsible for the hydraulic line’s failure, the third party (the crane’s manufacturer or owner, if the crane ‘s operator was a subcontractor) could become the target of a third-party lawsuit. The vast majority of lawsuits in Workers Compensation injury cases are “third party cases.”
In a second-party Workers Compensation case, where just the employer is involved, an injured worker (or the worker’s family) usually cannot:
- Receive more than a certain percentage (usually from 60 to 70%) of a worker’s weekly wages while the worker is unable to work.
- Receive compensation for “non-economic” damages such as pain and suffering or loss of ability to participate in normal family activities or recover “punitive” damages.
- Receive more than a fixed “burial expense” payment if a worker dies from an on the job injury.
Obviously, it is to the worker’s advantage to identify any third-parties that may have contributed to their injuries. Since this will require resources that are practically always unavailable to the typical worker, it is necessary for injured workers to seek the assistance of an experienced personal injury and construction accident lawyer such as The Doan Law Firm, a national law practice with offices located throughout the country.
Contact an on-the-job injury lawyer
It is important to remember that agencies who investigate construction site accidents, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) are investigators and do not have the legal authority to order an employer to provide anything in the way of benefits to those injured on-the-job. Furthermore, an employer is not required to pay any compensation to injured workers beyond what is set forth in state law.
If you, or a family member, have suffered an on-the-job injury, we invite you to contact The Doan Law Firm to arrange a free review of your on-the-job injury case and a discussion of the legal options that may be available to you.
When you contact our firm, your case review and first consultation with our on-the-job injury lawyer is always free and does not obligate you hiring us to act as your legal counsel. Should you decide to file a lawsuit against those responsible for your injuries or other losses, and that you would like to have us represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.