Construction Injuries: Construction Industry Booming, But It’s Often Costly For Workers

As the Texas economy booms, so does the construction industry.  But recently, that’s coming at a high cost to workers.  Recently, the University of Texas and the Worker’s Defense Project released a study showing the costs — primarily in on-the-job injuries and wage theft — to workers.

An NPR story describing the report notes in part:

“Like almost everything in the Texas, the construction industry in the Lone Star State is big. One in every 13 workers here is employed in the state’s $54 billion-per-year construction industry.”

“…Years of illegal immigration have pushed wages down, and accidents and wage fraud are common. Of the nearly 1 million workers laboring in construction here, approximately half are undocumented.”

“…working Texas construction is a good way to die while not making a good living. More construction workers die in Texas than in any other state, the WDP-UT study finds. Within 2010, construction workers in the lightly regulated Lone Star State died at twice the rate as those in California.”

“According to the study, 1 in every 5 Texas construction workers will require hospitalization because of injuries on the job. Texas is the only state in the nation without mandatory workers’ compensation, meaning hospitals and taxpayers usually end up shouldering the cost when uncove red construction workers are hurt.”

You can read the full report here 

If you or a loved one has been injured in an on-the-job or construction injury, give us a call at (512)476-4944.  We’d be happy to talk to you to see if we can help.

Texas On-The-Job Injury: How Does Worker’s Compensation Insurance Affect My Claim?

When you are injured on the job, one of the big issues affecting your case will be whether your employer has worker’s compensation insurance.  There are several issues that you need to look at to see how any worker’s compensation insurance will affect your claim.

1.  Does your employer have true worker’s compensation insurance?

Many employers purchase “true” worker’s compensation insurance, purchased in accordance with the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. (Employers who purchase true worker’s compensation insurance are called “subscribers.”) However, because worker’s compensation insurance is so expensive, many employers purchase “accident” insurance that doesn’t fully comply with Texas Workers’ Compensation requirements. (Employers who purchase this accident insurance or who don’t have any insurance at all are called “non-subscribers.”)  These two types of policies are treated differently under the law so it’s important to know what type of coverage, if any, that your employer offers.

It can often be difficult to find an answer to this first question.  Employers are supposed to post notices about whether they are subscribers under the worker’s compensation system, but these notices are often difficult to find.  The Texas Department of Insurance also maintains an online database of subscribers, which you can find here, but you need to know the precise legal name of your employer to use the database.

2.  Were you injured as a result of your employer’s negligence/conduct?

Under Texas worker’s compensation law, if your employer is a subscriber, then you are able to recover worker’s compensation benefits for any on-the-job injury, regardless of fault.  However, in exchange for these benefits, the law does not allow you to sue your employer for additional damages except in rare instances.

If you’re employer was a non-subscriber — it didn’t purchase worker’s comp insurance or only purchased accident insurance — then you’re free to sue your employer for causing your injuries.

3.  Were you injured by someone else?

Many times, people are hurt by others while they’re on the job.  For example, you may be in a car wreck while you’re on the job.

In these situations, you are allowed to recover worker’s compensation benefits and also make a claim against the party who caused your harm.  The big caveat here is that you will have to reimburse your workers’ compensation carrier for some of the benefits you received if you make a recovery from a third party.

These situations also get very complicated in construction cases, where worker’s comp policies can cover employees of other companies.  If you were injured on a construction job by another sub-contractor, then you need to speak to an attorney to get more clarification than I can offer here.

Bee Cave Scaffold Collapse: Scaffolding Safety

I was walking back to my office from an appointment this afternoon, and I read about a scaffold collapse on Bee Cave Road.

I don’t know what happened, but you can almost guarantee that there were a number of safety violations that led to the problem.  I try not to usually make such generalizations, but being familiar with the construction industry and seeing my fair share of construction cases, serious injuries are almost always caused by someone cutting corners — either to save time or money or both.

Scaffolding is particularly dangerous.  I’ve written a number of posts about the dangers of scaffolds.  One of my prior posts had a pretty detailed discussion about many of the safety problems associated with the use of scaffold.  You can read that post:  Austin Scaffold Collapse – A Case Study

If you or a loved one has been injured in a scaffold collapse or other on-the-job injury, please call us at (512)476-4944 or submit your case using the forms on this website.

Texas Is Leading The Nation In Workplace Deaths and Fatalities

Last week, the Dallas Morning News had a good article on the number of workplace deaths in Texas.

While the number of deaths have decreased in almost all parts of the nation, they remain high in Texas.  Indeed, in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available, Texas was responsible for 10% of the nation’s workplace fatalities.

The story suggests a number of potential causes for the high rates of workplace injuries.  Most of the fatalaties involved a driving or highway accident, and Texas has a vast network of highways compared to other states.

The story also suggests that Texas remains very lax about requiring training for Texas workers.  This lack of training helps decrease the safety of all workers.

Additionally, Texas relies on a high percentage of temporary workers.  These temporary workers often receive even less training and have less experience than their permanent counterparts — making them even more dangerous to all.

If you or a family member has been injured in a workplace or jobsite injury, please call us at (512)476-4944 and allow us the opportunity to help you.

Sioux City Sewer Workers — Another Example of The Dangers Of Working In Confined Spaces

What is the most dangerous part of most construction jobs?

Working in confined spaces.

Confined spaces present a number of dangers, including risks of fire, risks of suffocation, and risk of collapse (particularly in trenching situations).  These types of injuries become all too frequent when employers try to cut corners on safety rules.

Recently, a tragedy in Sioux City, Iowa really brought those dangers to light.  Several workers in North Sioux City were working to unclog a sewer line when the men were overcome by sewer gas, resulting in the death of two of the workers.  As is often the case in these types of tragedies, the early reports indicate that safety rules were being ignored, leading to the risks.  OSHA and IOSH (Iowa’s equivalent of OSHA) will be investigating  the confined space issues.

Most in the construction industry know the risks associated with working in confined spaces, and there are a number of regulations and safety rules designed to make these situations as safe as possible.  If these rules are followed, these types of deaths don’t have to happen. And yet, they do.  Instead of trying to figure out ways to cut corners, Texas construction companies would do well to take a minute and look at the Iowa situation to see what we can learn from that tragedy.

My friend Steve Lombardi, of the Lombardi Law Firm in Des Moines, is doing a good job of covering the story.  If you’re interested in learning more, check out his blog.  You can also check out the following:

Personal Injury Victims, How Far Will Insurance Adjusters Go To Investigate Your Claim?

I was having a talk with a fellow personal injury lawyer the other day, and he was griping about the result of a mediation.   This was a small car wreck case, and the insurance adjuster dropped the “bombshell” during the mediation that she discovered that the plaintiff had run a 5k race after the car wreck.  And not only had the plaintiff run the wreck, but the plaintiff posted a faster time after the wreck than he did the year before.

There are two things to learn from the story.  First, if you’re involved in a wreck or accident, the other side will investigate you.  In this day and age of the internet, it’s really cheap and easy for defense lawyers or insurance adjusters to spend a little time and find out a lot of information about your life.  If you have skeletons in the closet, they’ll find them, even in small cases.

The more important lesson is to be honest with your lawyer.  When we were remodeling our house, our builder used to say, “there are no problems, only issues.”  If a client tells his lawyer something bad, the lawyer can usually deal with it.  But when the client doesn’t tell the truth or fails to include something in the hopes that no one will ever find it, that often becomes a problem.  These types of problems ruin cases.  So if you’re injured, learn from others’ mistakes and tell your attorney the truth.

 Not being honest with your attorney is only one of many mistake you can make that can ruing your case.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck, on-the-job injury, or otherwise injured by someone else, request a copy of our book, HOLDING WRONGDOERS ACCOUNTABLE: Avoiding Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Texas Accident Claim.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

On-The-Job Injury? Don’t Sign A Release Without Advice From A Lawyer

I’ve heard from two attorneys the last few days that were trying to avoid a difficult situation involving on-the-job injuries.

For background, Texas is a worker’s comp state.  If your employer has worker’s comp then you are, for the most part, barred from suing your employer if you’re injured on the job.  On the other hand, if your employer does not carry worker’s comp  (we call these employers “non-subscribers”) then you can sue your employer for an on-the-job injury.  

Some non-subscribers have “fake” worker’s comp policies.  Typically, these are plans that will pay injured people a portion of their lost wages and their medical bills, but the plans won’t pay for pain and suffering, impairment, mental anguish, etc (these are called “non-economic damages”).  Under the law, injured workers are often entitled to seek benefits under the plan while still suing their employer for the damages that the plans don’t cover.

The problem?  Many industrial employers are now requiring their employees to sign a release before allowing the employees to seek benefits under the plan.  Thus, the injured are giving up their rights to seek a recovery for non-economic damages in exchange for accepting a partial recovery.  The potential recoveries that these employees are giving up may be substatial. 

Now, in some situations, that may be in the employee’s best interest.  But in many situations, it isn’t.  And injured employees who don’t know their rights can’t make informed decisions until they talk to an attorney and understand the options they have and the consequences of their decisions. 

So, if you’re injured on the job, I encourage you to talk to an attorney before signing any agreement that may give up your rights.

Schuelke Law maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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