In Texas, workers’ compensation law is handled differently than it is in most states, and it has people asking “Can you sue if you accept workers’ compensation?” Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that’s designed to protect the employer from lawsuits using what is known as a no-fault system. Employees who are injured on the job have to go through the workers’ compensation process to get benefits from their work-related injuries. An employee may seek to sue their employer for their injuries after receiving workers’ comp, but can you sue if you accept workers’ compensation? The answer is: it depends.
Texas is a state that does not require employers to carry workers’ comp insurance, although they are required to follow the requirements of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act even if they don’t buy a workers’ compensation policy. An employer who does not have coverage can be sued, whereas an employer who does have coverage typically can’t be sued. However, there are situations where an employee can sue an employer and hold them liable in a civil lawsuit even if the employer carries workers’ compensation insurance.
HOW WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWS WORK IN TEXAS
Workers’ compensation laws in Texas are designed to encourage employers to obtain insurance to protect against a lawsuit from an injured employee. However, the state does not make getting workers’ compensation mandatory and gives employers the option to carry the insurance or not if they so decide. Employers who have insurance are classified as subscribers, and those without insurance are non-subscribers. The Texas Department of Insurance publishes a list of employers with and without workers’ compensation insurance.
Employers who do carry workers’ comp gain protection against lawsuits from injured workers for negligence. They’re covered by the no-fault laws that don’t require an employee to prove that their employer was negligent when they were injured while working. An injured employee is offered benefits that include:
- Necessary medical treatment after a work-related injury or illness
- Income replacement
- Burial expenses and death benefits for a work-related death.
The fact that an injured employee can’t sue a subscribing employer for damages is somewhat unfair. However, the employee is almost guaranteed that their claim won’t be denied and they will receive wage and medical bill coverage.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SUBSCRIBING AND A NON-SUBSCRIBING EMPLOYER
An employer who carries a workman’s compensation policy that’s approved by state regulators is categorized as a subscriber, whereas an employer who is not insured is a non-subscriber. It’s estimated that 28% of all employers in Texas do not carry coverage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any kind of insurance at all. Oftentimes, a non-subscriber buys a policy that’s not workers’ compensation but that offers similar benefits, albeit with less coverage. A non-subscriber is also required by law to notify new employees that the company doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage, and they have to report workplace injuries to the Texas Department of Insurance.
CAN YOU SUE AFTER RECEIVING WORKERS’ COMP?
An employer that doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance does not receive the protection of the no-fault laws that stop an injured employee from suing. This is true even if they carry some type of compensation policy. However, an employer that does have workers’ comp insurance is not completely protected from a lawsuit, either. A non-subscribing employer can be sued for any type of injury sustained by an employee while working, but a subscribing employer can only be sued under certain circumstances.
Employees have the right to sue a non-subscriber because Texas’ workers’ compensation laws give employees the right to have their work-related injuries and lost wages covered by their employer. The Workers’ Compensation Act took away an employee’s right to sue their employer and gave them the guarantee that they would be covered by workers’ comp instead. However, it’s worth noting that when an employee sues a non-subscribing employer for a work-related injury, they are not engaging in a workers’ compensation lawsuit. Instead, they are suing their employer for negligence. The Act also makes it more difficult for a non-subscriber to fight a negligence claim by an employee.
An employee can sue after receiving workers’ comp in the event that the employer was grossly negligent. However, suing for gross negligence is also not a workers’ compensation lawsuit. Employees can also sue a third party that played a role in the injury or death of an employee. These types of claims fall under Texas personal injury laws instead of workers’ compensation.
CAN I SUE MY EMPLOYER AFTER SETTLEMENT?
If the employer is a subscriber, there are no settlements in workers’ compensation cases. This is due to the Workers’ Compensation Act of 1993, and part of the act focused on eliminating settlements for workplace injuries. Instead of paying a lump sum amount for an injury, workers’ comp pays for medical care and lost wages on an as-needed basis. In the event the employer is a non-subscriber, there may be the option to sue after a settlement, but it depends.
Settlements usually contain language that bars both parties from suing one another going forward. This is to prevent one party from going back for more money later and to prevent the other party from trying to recover the damages they were sued for. If you signed a settlement agreement, the answer to the question of “can I sue my employer after settlement” is usually no.
Normally, a settlement is an option when one party admits liability for their actions and agrees to a specific amount of money for a settlement. The no-fault laws of workers’ compensation make it more difficult for an injured employee to sue a subscribing employee, but it’s not impossible. The best course of action is to consult with an attorney who has familiarity with Texas workmen’s compensation laws to learn about your options.
CALL THE HANNA LAW FIRM FOR HELP WITH WORK-RELATED INJURIES
Have you received an injury in a work-related accident and want to know your options for recovering damages? Give the Hanna Allen, PLLC a call at 432-220-2649 to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers and learn more about how we can help you with getting compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained.