From its geographical size to its economy, Texas is a large state and is home to some of the most profitable companies in the United States including Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Dell, Kimberly Clark, Southwest Airlines and Whole Food Markets. Even with these Fortune 500 companies, small business in Texas make up for a large majority of the employers in the state. Each state has its own set of laws along with rules and regulations that govern Workers Compensation. While there are variations between states, most have mandatory requirements for a workers compensation insurance policy to cover any medical costs or lost income should an employee have an accident in the workplace.
Texas is a Workers Compensation “Opt out” State
Surprisingly, there is an exception to this general rule which involves the State of Texas along with the state of Illinois. Texas has been deemed an “Opt-Out” state, which means that Texas employers are not required by either State Law or Mandate to participate in the State’s Workers Compensation Program and can legally “Opt-Out” leaving workers essentially unprotected. In most states, if a worker is injured on the job, they can legally file a claim for compensation. If the claim is approved, they are entitled to monetary compensation of their medical bills along with compensation to cover lost wages and in most cases disability depending on the type and extent of the injuries. However, if a worker is injured on the job in Texas and the employer has opted-out, the injured worker is essentially left high and dry with only one option at their disposal which is their legal right to sue for civil damages. This practice leaves a loop hole for employers in Texas to have their employee’s sign a legal document which waives their right to sue. In exchange the employer promises to cover medical expenses and lost wages. Many employees agree to this because if they were to suffer an injury that requires medical attention and are unable to work they have no money coming in for expenses while waiting to go to court for civil damages.
West Fertilizer Company Explosion Investigation
On April 17, 2013 a horrific explosion occurred at a fertilizer plant in West Texas killing fifteen people and injuring an additional one hundred and sixty people along with causing extensive property damage to the surrounding areas. Sadly the plant had opted-out of the State Worker’s Compensation and only had a $1 million insurance policy in place. This amount comes nowhere near to covering the medical bills and lost wages of the injured parties or the property owners around the affected area. The West Fertilizer Company is expected to file bankruptcy. As of October 12, 2015, at least seven lawsuits have been filed against Adair Grain Inc., which owned the West Fertilizer Company facility. On Sunday October 11, 2015, a partial settlement was reached but its terms have not been formally disclosed. The settlement includes the families of three civilians killed in the fire and explosion. Sources suggest that a trial for a second group of plaintiffs is expected to commence in early 2016.
Workers Compensation Claims, Insurance Law Specialists & Legal Representation for the Accused in Houston, Conroe, Galveston, Sugar Land & the Great State of Texas
At Dyer & Libby Attorneys at Law we represent individuals through all stages of workers compensation. Our experienced legal team will help you gather the necessary information needed to prepare and file your application for benefits. Our attorneys are knowledgeable and understand the complexity of compensation laws in Texas. We are a formidable advocate to have on your side and we are dedicated to working tirelessly for all of our clients. If you have questions regarding workers compensation in the State of Texas, contact the experienced attorneys at Dyer and Libby Law Firm today and speak with a legal representative to schedule your appointment.