Odessa Work Injury Lawyer
When most people go to work, they expect to go home at the end of the day. But many jobs are dangerous, including agricultural, construction, transportation, police, and oil and gas jobs. While you rely on training and experience to save the day, you also need others to be safe, including co-workers and supervisors. Another’s carelessness, maliciousness or negligence could cause you to suffer injuries. Just one person could cause catastrophic injuries in many of these jobs.
If you suffer an injury at work, you can obtain workers’ compensation benefits, but it is a complicated process. If you do not complete the process correctly, you might not receive compensation for your injuries. An incorrect filing could also prevent you from getting the medical care you need. Additionally, you have a short time to file a workers’ comp claim, which could have an impact on receiving the compensation you deserve.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BASICS
Texas does not require employers to carry workers’ compensation, but the employer must notify all new hires of coverage or non-coverage. If an employer does carry workers’ compensation insurance, employees have the option to deny the coverage and retain their ability to file a lawsuit against the employer instead.
Workers’ compensation does not cover all types of injuries. For example, if an employee suffered injuries because he or she was fooling around, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if the conduct that caused the injury was intentional, the workers’ comp board will deny the employee’s claim. Additionally, workers’ compensation laws limit medical, income and death benefits.
If you suffered injuries at work, you should ask work injury lawyers in Odessa for advice regarding accepting workers’ compensation.
FILING A LAWSUIT
If you elect to forgo workers’ compensation, you can file a lawsuit against the employer. The benefit of filing a lawsuit is that you are not limited to the amount and type of damages you can recover after a workplace accident.
You can also use your own doctors instead of the doctors your employers force you to use when choosing workers’ compensation.
When choosing a workplace injury attorney, always ensure that the firm has experience working with cases in your industry. For example, you need an Odessa oilfield injury lawyer if you were injured working on an oil rig. Certain industries have industry-specific rules and regulations that an attorney must know and understand to increase the chances of a successful outcome.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Case or Win a Trial Award?
It depends on the complexity of your case. Sometimes, an employer’s insurance (not workers’ comp) will offer a fair and reasonable settlement once you start settlement negotiations. In other cases, no matter how long negotiations last, the insurance company refuses to be fair. In that case, we could litigate.
Once the insurance company agrees to a fair and reasonable settlement, it still takes about a month – plus or minus – to receive a check. After the parties come to an agreement, several steps take place:
- The attorneys draft a settlement agreement.
- The proposed settlement agreement is forwarded to all defendant’s attorneys involved in the case.
- The attorneys may or may not request changes.
- Once the attorneys agree to the content of the settlement agreement, your attorney forwards the proposed agreement to you for review.
- If you have questions or changes, you will go over those with your attorney.
- Once everyone agrees, you sign the settlement agreement, and your attorney forwards it to the insurance company, who then processes the agreement.
- The insurance company cuts a check and forwards it to your attorney, who then deposits it into an escrow account.
- The attorney waits for the check to clear, then pays outstanding medical expenses, reimburses your health insurance company, and deducts his fees and costs.
- Your attorney cuts you a check. Once the check clears your bank, you can spend it as needed.
Settlement negotiations could take as little as several days or as long as a few months. If you have to litigate the case, litigation could take months, or even years, depending on the case.
TYPES OF WORKPLACE INJURIES
The injuries you could sustain on the job vary, depending on several factors, including the industry you are in. Some industries that work with chemicals or welding torches could also see several types of burns. Injuries could range from minor to catastrophic or even death and include:
- Scrapes, cuts, gashes, bruises, and bumps
- Torn and pulled muscles, strains, sprains, and other soft tissue injuries
- Simple and compound fractures, crushed bones
- Face and eye injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head, neck and shoulder injuries
- Internal injuries
- Cold burns, such as frostbite or from working with certain chemicals
- Friction burns
- Thermal burns.
- Electrical burns
- Radiation burns
- Chemical burns
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Secondary injuries – injuries you sustain as a result of the primary injuries, such as infections
- Exacerbated injuries – the original injury makes a preexisting injury or condition worse.
RECOVERING COMPENSATION AFTER A WORKPLACE INJURY
If you choose to file a lawsuit instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may recover two types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are further broken down into two categories: cconomic damages and non-economic damages.
The court orders compensatory damages in an attempt to make you whole again. While money does not remove injuries or bring back a loved one, it significantly reduces the financial stress accident victims feel when they cannot financially contribute to the household expenses and groceries.
Special damages, often referred to as economic damages, are measurable and have an objective monetary value. They include:
- Past and future medical expenses, including hand controls for vehicles, widening doors in homes, and adding wheelchair ramps and grab bars to make a home more accessible. Medical expenses also include any therapies you might require, prescriptions and ambulatory aids.
- Personal property, including a vehicle damaged at work. For example, if a construction worker overloads a crane and the crane tips and crushes your truck, the defendant must replace your truck.
- Wages. Most people expect “current” lost wages – those you lose from not working from the time of the accident through the time they receive a settlement or win a trial award. However, if an accident victim suffers catastrophic injuries that lead to life-long disabilities, he or she could recover loss of future earning capacity from the time of the accident through the time the victim would normally retire. For most people, that is 65 to 67 years of age.
- Death-related expenses, including funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, lawyer’s fees for a probate attorney, and probate filing fees.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages are less easily calculated and do not have a monetary value. They include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to take care of the chores you usually do, such as cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn care, home repair and maintenance, and laundry.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to use ambulatory aids or take prescriptions for the rest of your life.
- Disfigurement and/or excessive scarring, such as that from burns.
- Loss of consortium if you cannot enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you cannot enjoy family time, including everyday activities such as eating meals or other family activities and events.
- Amputation of a limb or digit.
- Loss of use of a bodily function or body part.
Texas allows plaintiffs to recover punitive damages in some situations. However, plaintiffs must prove that the defendant was grossly negligent or their actions or inactions were intentionally meant to cause harm. The court only orders punitive damages to punish a defendant’s grossly negligent or intentional actions or inactions.
How long do I have to file a workers’ compensation claim?
When filing a claim for compensation through workers’ compensation insurance, you have one year from the date of the injury to file the claim. However, if you are filing a lawsuit against your employer, co-worker, or someone else that caused workplace injuries, you have up to two years to take legal action.
What do I do after a workplace accident?
Report the accident to your immediate supervisor and document the discussion. Seek medical attention immediately, then contact hurt-on-the-job lawyers in Odessa. If the injuries are severe enough so that you need to get to the hospital immediately, you should go but notify your supervisor as soon as possible.
What if my employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance?
You can file a claim against your employer. If a co-worker caused the injuries, you could file the claim against the co-worker and your employer.
What if I can’t afford an Odessa work injury lawyer?
The initial case evaluation is free. We work on a contingency basis, and we get paid when you win.
What if someone else caused my injuries while I was at work?
If a customer, another contractor or subcontractor, or defective equipment caused the injuries, contact an Odessa work injury lawyer to start a third-party claim.