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Is There a Gray Area in Texas Workers' Comp Law?

Is There a Gray Area in Texas Workers' Comp Law?

Texas state law decrees that employers must maintain a reasonably safe working environment for all employees. At the same time, the state allows employers the option to decline the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act (TWCA), or carry worker’s compensation insurance.

If an employer carries workers’ comp insurance, they are subjected to state limits regarding the amount that is available for compensation. It also restricts what on the type of compensation can collect.

These are some important items to note:

  • Injuries sustained at work or while carrying out an errand for work are covered
  • Injuries sustained due to the employee’s own negligence, roughhousing, or self-harm are not covered
  • All injuries must be reported within 30 days, and claims filed within 1 year

On the other hand, declining insurance can leave employers open to personal injury lawsuits. Furthermore, under premises liability laws, an employee can still hold employers responsible for failing to provide safe conditions.

Opting Out Leaves Employers Vulnerable

Employers leave themselves open to a variety of negligence claims should an incident occur. It happened in one case involving a 2014 case between Kroger company and an employee, who was injured in a slip and fall accident.

Employers who have opted out of TWCA will not be allowed defenses for the following:

  • “Last clear chance”
  • Negligence from a co-worker
  • Contributory negligence
  • Assumption of risk

In the Kroger case, the plaintiff’s supervisor for an employee working at one of its stores, asked the plaintiff to clean up a spill in one of the aisles. The spill was reported oily and slick and required a certain method of cleaning that is enforced company-wide.

Instead of following the company’s protocols for cleaning up oily substances, the plaintiff decided to use a mop and acknowledged that there was a risk in doing this. While cleaning the up the spill, he fractured his, dislocated his hip, and was left with lifelong, debilitating injuries.

Initially, when the plaintiff brought forth his case, many of the lower courts dismissed his claims. That is until Kroger asked the state’s Supreme Court to reiterate what each respective side’s rights are.

Exemption Allowed in Certain Cases

The plaintiff’s case was the exception to the rule. The Texas Supreme Court maintained the belief that employers must still provide a reasonable safe environment and adequate warnings about possible hazards of working in the facility. At the same time, however, employees still cannot recover compensation in a premises liability claim if he or she was aware of the risks involved and if he or she was directed to resolve the situation.

Regardless of what provisions the law may have, it is important that it is not simply an employer’s duty to inform employees of potential dangers, it is a moral responsibility.

Because liability and negligence laws can be complex, we urge you to contact Daspit Law Firm for legal assistance. If you believe you have a claim, schedule a free case consultation with us today!

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