Fatal Workplace Accidents and Injuries, Texas Lawyer

Workplace Accidents and Injury Statistics

Fatal work injuries in the United States dropped by approximately  7%  to 4,383 deaths in 2012 according to results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Significantly, there were 138  deaths in the oil and gas extraction industries, a 23 percent rise in fatal injuries to workers in  2012.Fatal Occupational Injuries

Even though the number of fatalities dropped in the U.S.,work related deaths increased by over 20% to 531 deaths in Texas.  Oklahoma also saw a rise in work related deaths.  During the last 20 years, 1994 saw the highest number of work related fatalities in the US at 6,632, or approximately 35% higher than 2012.According the Texas Department of Insurance the deadliest occupation in Texas was driving heavy and tractor-trailer trucks. Texas also saw an increase in construction deaths. 2012 Texas Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. In Texas, there was a 57 percent increase in fatal injuries for heavy and tractor-trailer,truck drivers with 121 deaths, up from 77 in 2011. There were 82 construction trade worker deaths in Texas, up from  59 incidents in 2011.

These statistics should be analyzed by all safety personnel to help them understand what is occurring in the workplace and how to avoid future accidents and injuries.

Please also refer to our personal injury blog and our posts,  Accidents in the Workplace – Fall Protection,Premises Liability, Defective Products, Products Liability,Lockout Tagout, Texas Truck Accidents,Oilfield Accidents, Injuries and Deaths,and Workplace Injury – Texas Workers Compensation – The Exclusive Remedy?

Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

We have experience with workplace accidents and  injuries, and if you have been seriously injured or have lost a loved one in a workplace accident, please do not hesitate to give East Texas Attorney, Chris JonesBoard Certified Personal Injury Trial Law, a call at 903-236-4990, 888-236-4878 (toll-free) for a free initial consultation or send us a message at Contact Us.

Premises Liability, East Texas Attorney

Premises liability claims arise from physical conditions or defects on property.  In a premises liability case, like any negligence case, the plaintiff must establish a duty owed to the plaintiff, breach of the duty, and damages proximately caused by the breach.

It should be noted that landowners may also be liable for negligent activities when a person has been injured by or as a contemporaneous result of the activity itself, rather than by a condition created by the activity.  Keetch v. Kroger Co., 845 S.W.2d 262 (Tex.1992).        

In premises liability cases, the scope of the duty turns on the plaintiff’s status.

Generally, store customers are invitees, and a property owner owes invitees a duty to use ordinary care to reduce or eliminate an unreasonable risk of harm created by a premises condition about which the property owner knew or should have known.

In Corbin v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 648 S.W.2d 292 (Tex.1983) the Texas Supreme Court set forth the elements of a premises liability in a slip and fall case:

(1) Actual or constructive knowledge of some condition on the premises by the owner/operator;

(2) That the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm;

(3) That the owner/operator did not exercise reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the risk; and

(4) That the owner/operator’s failure to use such care proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

As far as licensees, the landowner owes a duty to warn of or to make safe hidden dangers known to the landowner and a duty not to intentionally, willfully, or through gross negligence cause injury.

As to trespassers, a landowner owes only a duty not to intentionally, willfully, or through gross negligence cause injury.

It should also be noted that Texas has a recreational use statute which limits the liability of who open their land for recreational purposes. TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE §§ 75.001 -.004. 

A general contractor in control of the premises may be liable for two types of negligence in failing to keep the premises safe: that arising from an activity on the premises, and that arising from a premises defect.” Clayton W. Williams, Jr., Inc. v. Olivo, 952 S.W.2d 523 (Tex. 1997).

Examples of potential premises liability and negligent activity cases against landowners would be, among others, a slip and fall on ice as a result of an ice dispenser, falling objects or merchandise, failure to remove rowdy customers, misapplication of wax on a floor, unstable platforms or stairs, rotten wood allowing a fall through a floor.

In cases in which governmental vehicles are involved, you may find helpful information in Governmental Tort Liability.

We have experience with premises liability cases, and if you or your family member has been seriously injured or died on a dangerous premises or as a result of a premises owner’s negligent activity and need a Texas attorney, please do not hesitate to give East Texas Attorney, Chris JonesBoard Certified Personal Injury Trial Law, a call at 903-236-4990 for a free initial consultation or send us a message at Contact Us.

Lockout Tagout

If lockout tagout is not properly implemented, approximately 3 million workers face risk of injury according to OSHA.  OSHA has a specific lockout tagout standard 29 CFR 1910.147.  OSHA estimates that compliance with the standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.

In simple terms, lockout/tagout safeguards employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. Lockout is preferred over tagout.  OSHA has a lockout/tagout fact sheet (available in Spanish) and a more detailed lockout/tagout publication available for download.  OSHA even has an interactive lockout tagout interactive training program.

Imagine a coworker starting a meat grinder, wood chipper, or large mixer while you or one of your body parts are in it.  Unfortunately, it happens.  Search the internet and the OSHA Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries and you will quickly learn why lockout/tagout is so incredibly important.

Exhibit A to 29 CFR 1910.147 describes typical minimal lockout procedures.

OSHA issues citations for failing to develop and implement lockout/tagout programs and failing to provide training for employees on the use of lockout/tagout devices, but many times it is too late.  Do not wait for OSHA to issue a citation.  Implement a lockout tagout program, train your employees and make sure they comply with the program.  The failure to do so can be catastrophic.

Whatever your application, there are several lockout devices, tags and padlocks available for purchase.

If you are a worker that believes your employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards,  employees can file a complaint online with OSHA or by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

We have experience with industrial or construction accidents involving lockout tagout (or the failure to lockout tagout), and if you have been seriously injured or have lost a loved one and need a Texas accident attorney, please do not hesitate to give East Texas Attorney, Chris Jones, Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Law, a call at 903-236-4990 for a free initial consultation or send us a message at Contact Us.

Documenting Personal Injury Damages

Documenting your personal injury damages after an accident causing personal injuries or death is extremely important.  Juries come into the courtroom conditioned by cries for tort reform and claims of jackpot justice.  For jurors to understand your damages, especially your personal injuries such as pain and suffering and mental anguish, they must see them to appreciate them.

Even though most cases settle, a fair settlement is based upon what the jury may find as the dollar amount of damages.  It is easy to calculate past medical expenses, future medical expenses, past lost earnings, future loss of earning capacity and property damages.  Pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment are more difficult to prove and often depend on how well these damages are documented.

Photographs and video are excellent ways to document personal injury damages.  With cell phones that take photos and videos, there are many opportunities to make a record of the accident scene, property damage, bruises, lacerations, stitches,  hospital stays, trips to the doctor, difficulty in doing simple things such as getting dressed or grooming.  Bruises fade, stitches and casts are removed and thankfully, people get better.

Photographs or videos?  It depends on the situation, but both are usually the best answer.  Digital photos and videos  are easy to share, and the videos can be edited to make the trial presentation flow.

Obviously, seeking medical care is the first priority!  When possible you should always photograph and video your injuries and damage to the vehicles.  If you are documenting the accident scene, do it safely.  Do not get in the roadway and cause another accident!

Consider having someone video you doing the simple activities that are difficult because of your injuries.

If the accident involves a death, consider documenting the funeral.  You should also gather photographs of your lost loved one doing the things they enjoyed and spending time with the family.

Finally, as creepy as it seems, be aware that the Defendant may attempt to video or photograph you doing things that you say you cannot do.  If there is a vehicle with dark windows sitting across the street, you may be being watched!

If you have been seriously injured or have lost a loved one in an accident, please do not hesitate to give Chris JonesBoard Certified Personal Injury Trial Law, a call for a free initial consultation or send us a message at Contact Us.

Workplace Injury – Texas Workers Compensation – The Exclusive Remedy?

Workplace Injury? If you have been injured on the job, you need to know whether your employer is covered by Texas Workers Compensation Insurance. Texas does not require employers to carry workers compensation insurance to cover workplace injuries.  You may search to determine whether your employer has workers’ compensation coverage by going to the Online Employer Workers’ Compensation Insurance Verification Search.  If the employer is covered, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has a list of Employee Frequently Asked Questions you may find helpful.  If you are an employer, you may find the TDI page Information for Employers helpful.  The TDI website has a number of useful resources and is worth visiting before and after a workplace injury.

If your employer is not covered by workers compensation insurance, some employers buy accident and health policies, employer indemnification agreements, and disability policies as cheaper alternatives to workers’ compensation. Even though these policies may provide benefits to an injured employee, Texas law does not recognize them as substitutes for workers’ compensation insurance and your employer will likely be considered a nonsubscriber.

The difference between a subscribing employer and a non-subscribing employer is significant. Nonsubscribing employers are subject to a lawsuit claiming negligence for a workplace injury or death. Subscribing employers are not. The Texas Workers Compensation Act provides:

Sec. 408.001. EXCLUSIVE REMEDY; EXEMPLARY DAMAGES.

(a) Recovery of workers’ compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers’ compensation insurance coverage or a legal beneficiary against the employer or an agent or employee of the employer for the death of or a work-related injury sustained by the employee.

(b) This section does not prohibit the recovery of exemplary damages by the surviving spouse or heirs of the body of a deceased employee whose death was caused by an intentional act or omission of the employer or by the employer’s gross negligence.

In short, if the employer is a subscriber, workers’ compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy against the employer, unless the employee dies as a result of an intentional act or omission of the employer or by the employer’s gross negligence.

For nonsubscribers it is completely different. The employee can file suit against the employer claiming negligence and the employer loses some of its defenses:

Sec. 406.033. COMMON-LAW DEFENSES; BURDEN OF PROOF.

(a) In an action against an employer who does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage to recover damages for personal injuries or death sustained by an employee in the course and scope of the employment, it is not a defense that:

(1) the employee was guilty of contributory negligence;

(2) the employee assumed the risk of injury or death; or

(3) the injury or death was caused by the negligence of a fellow employee.

(b) This section does not reinstate or otherwise affect the availability of defenses at common law, including the defenses described by Subsection (a).

(c) The employer may defend the action on the ground that the injury was caused:

(1) by an act of the employee intended to bring about the injury; or

(2) while the employee was in a state of intoxication.

(d) In an action described by Subsection (a) against an employer who does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage, the plaintiff must prove negligence of the employer or of an agent or servant of the employer acting within the general scope of the agent’s or servant’s employment.

The Texas workers’ compensation statutes are located in Texas Labor Code, Title 5. Workers’ Compensation.

The statutes above deals with claims against the employer. The on the job injury or death may be the result of the wrongful conduct of someone other than the employer or as a result of a defectively designed products or warnings. Whether the employer is a subscriber or not, a lawsuit can be filed against a negligent third-party or based upon a defective products.  For example, many workplace injuries involve machine guarding, or lack thereof, lock out tag out, OSHA violations, NEC and NESC violations, etc…

The Workers Compensation Statute provides:

Sec. 417.001. THIRD-PARTY LIABILITY.

(a) An employee or legal beneficiary may seek damages from a third-party who is or becomes liable to pay damages for an injury or death that is compensable under this subtitle and may also pursue a claim for workers’ compensation benefits under this subtitle.

(b) If a benefit is claimed by an injured employee or a legal beneficiary of the employee, the insurance carrier is subrogated to the rights of the injured employee and may enforce the liability of the third-party in the name of the injured employee or the legal beneficiary.

Section (b) deals with subrogation which may allow the insurance carrier to recover all or some of the benefits it has paid out of any third-party settlement or judgment.

The above are excerpts from a detailed Act and the issues that arise in on the job accidents and injuries can be complicated. The point of this post is that there may be remedies available in addition to workers compensation benefits or a claim against an employer.

If you are a worker that believes your employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards,  employees can file a complaint online with OSHA or by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Please also see our posts concerning workplace injuries – Accidents in the Workplace – Fall Protection, Defective Products, Products Liability and Lockout Tagout.

If you have been seriously injured or have lost a loved one in a workplace accident, and need a Texas attorney, please do not hesitate to give East Texas Attorney, Chris JonesBoard Certified Personal Injury Trial Law, a call at 903-236-4990 for a free initial consultation or send us a message at Contact Us.

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