| Read Time: 4 minutes | Work Injury

How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Pay in Texas?

If you are injured on the job while employed in the state of Texas, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim to cover the expenses associated with your injury. Not all Texas employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and it is important to understand your options. According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses across the U.S. in 2018.  What Is Workers’ Compensation? Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees who have suffered a work-related injury or illness. Depending on the nature of your claim, workers’ comp payout amounts can vary.  Texas Workers’ Compensation Not all Texas employers are required to carry workers’ comp insurance. The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) reported that 28% of private companies in the state do not carry workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer does not carry workers’ comp insurance, you may consider filing a personal injury claim to receive relief for your injury. If your employer does have workers’ comp insurance, there are steps you should take immediately after you are injured or after you realize your injuries are associated with work: Report the injury directly to your employer, and File a DWC Form 041 with the Texas Department of Insurance.  The insurance company will reach out to your employer and review your claim after the form is submitted. Will I Get a Settlement for Workers’ Comp? Most insurance claims can be classified as settlements. You are not actually suing your employer. You are basically filing an insurance claim, similar to what you would do with your own health or auto insurance. According to Texas Labor Code Sec. 408.005, a settlement may not provide for payment of benefits in a lump sum except in specific cases. For a settlement to be approved, both you and the insurance company must come to a clear agreement on the terms of the settlement for workers’ comp. Once an agreement is reached and the settlement is approved, either party can still withdraw if they change their mind as long as it is before the effective date of the settlement.  How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Pay in Texas? Workers’ compensation payout amounts vary depending on your wages and your injuries. Each claim is different. When answering the question, How much does workers’ compensation pay in Texas? you must take into account the relief you need and the methods of calculation used by the state. One important number to know is your average weekly wage (AWW). This is the amount your workers’ compensation income benefits will be based on. In Texas, your AWW is the average wage you earned during the 13 weeks prior to your injury. This includes bonuses and other forms of income including: Car allowance, Health benefits, and Dry cleaning. If you have not been employed for 13 weeks prior to your injury, your AWW will be calculated using that of an employee with the same or a similar job.  Potential Workers’ Comp Payouts The severity of your injuries, paired with your AWW will be the biggest factors that determine how much workers’ compensation pays in Texas. Insurance companies will likely try to minimize both your injuries and AWW. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that you are getting what you are owed.  Medical Compensation Workers’ compensation payouts should cover all medical expenses related to your condition. This includes all hospitalization, treatment, medications, and follow up care approved by your doctor. Your employer may require you to see an “in-network” doctor, depending on their insurance plan.  Temporary Income Benefits  Injuries and illnesses can prevent you from performing your job in your previous capacity while you heal. Temporary income benefits make up for the difference in your income while you cannot perform your duties. Texas calculates temporary income benefits as 70% of the difference between the wages you are able to earn after injury and the wages you earned before the injury. This number increases to 75% if you were making under $10 per hour. Workers’ comp payout amounts for temporary income can last for 104 weeks from injury, or until you can return to work.  Impairment Income Benefits If permanent bodily damage occurs as a result of your work injury, you may be eligible for impairment income benefits. These are equal to 70% of your average wage and could continue even after you go back to work. A doctor assigns an impairment percentage point to your condition which reflects severity. Each point equals three weeks of impairment income benefits.  Supplemental Income Benefits Like impairment income benefits, your impairment rating has an impact on workers’ compensation payouts for supplemental income benefits. If you have significant permanent damage and receive an impairment rating of 15% or higher, you may receive supplemental income benefits. To be eligible, you must be earning less than 80% of your pre-injury wages, demonstrate you are looking for work, and have not accepted a lump sum payment for your injuries. You also have to re-apply for these benefits every three months.  Death and Burial Benefits According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2019. This is a 2% increase from the 5,250 in 2018. Eligible family members of employees who die on the job can receive 75% of lost income. Burial and funeral benefits may include up to $10,000.  Lifetime Income Benefits for Disability In severe circumstances, workers’ compensation payouts may include benefits for permanent disability. These benefits are equal to 75% of your average wages before the injury plus a 3% cost-of-living increase each year. Lifetime income benefits for disability may apply under these circumstances: A spinal injury that causes paralysis in at least one arm or leg; Third-degree burns that cover at least 40% of the body and require a skin graft;  Traumatic brain injury resulting in mental impairment;  Complete blindness; or Amputation or total...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Work Injury

Six Types of OilField Accident Injuries

The Texas oil industry plays a critical role in the state’s economy. Contributing 14% of the total state economy and 40% of total US crude, it’s safe to say that our way of life depends on Texas oil workers.  However, employers don’t always provide workers with safe working conditions. In fact, the oil and gas industry is one of the most dangerous places to work. Investigative reporters analyzed US Department of Labor Data to find some disturbing statistics: From 2008 through 2017, 1,566 workers were killed in oil field jobs; 552 accidents killed oil workers during this time; The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines for an oil accident that killed a worker averaged $16,813; From 2008 to 2018, OSHA cited companies in the extraction industry for 10,873 violations; and 64% of OSHA citations were for serious violations, meaning hazards likely to result in death or serious physical harm. While the number of oil field fatalities may seem shocking, these statistics don’t even account for injured workers. In 2011, there were 1,400 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in oil and gas extraction, with 8,500 more injuries and illnesses from supporting activities. After the media attention given to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, people assumed that the oil industry would clean up their act. As these statistics show, that safety overhaul didn’t happen. The meager OSHA fines prove that government action is not likely to prompt safer working conditions. Instead, victims of oil industry negligence must speak up and take legal action. In exposing the oil industry’s bad actions and holding them accountable through a lawsuit, you can create safer working conditions for other workers. Types of Oilfield Injuries Since the oil field is such a dangerous place to work, workplace accidents often lead to life-changing or fatal injuries. Accidents can happen for a variety of reasons—from human error to equipment malfunction—causing severe oilfield injuries before a worker has time to react. So what types of injuries do these accidents cause?  Slip and Fall Injuries When working on high platforms among oil and chemicals, workers encounter the potential for serious slip and fall accidents. A slip and fall can lead to these injuries: Broken bones,  Strained muscles,  Neck or spinal cord injuries, and  Concussions. Sadly, a fall from a high platform or around moving machinery can result in death. Equipment Malfunction Injuries The heavy equipment that is powerful enough to extract oil from deep beneath the earth can cause severe injuries if it malfunctions. Either a manufacturing defect or human error can lead to catastrophic equipment accidents, causing any of these injuries: Crushed limbs, Severed limbs, Broken bones, Neck and back injuries, and Traumatic brain injuries. Workers injured by equipment malfunction may lose the ability to work and provide for their families. Rig Collapse Injuries Oil rigs weighing thousands of tons balance power and stability. Sometimes, quick construction using sloppy methods produces an unstable rig. When a rig collapses, these oil field injuries might result: Broken bones, Traumatic brain injuries, Severed limbs, and Back injuries. Workers who are high up on a collapsing rig or trapped beneath it may not survive the accident. Fire and Explosion Injuries The high heat and volatile chemicals used in the oil industry create the potential for fires and explosions. These horrific accidents have cost many oil workers their lives. Workers who survive oil fires and explosions can suffer these injuries: Burns, Head injuries, and Nerve damage. Oil fires and explosions receive much media coverage, but the oil industry has not improved safety standards to prevent these terrible disasters. Poisonous Gas Injuries The oil extraction process can release poisonous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, which poses a lethal hazard to unprotected workers. The colorless gas collects in enclosed spaces where it awaits unsuspecting workers. This Center for Public Integrity article discusses the lax inspections and regulations that leave workers vulnerable to gas injuries, such as these: Nausea and vomiting, Headache, and Unconsciousness. Sadly, workers exposed to poisonous gases are often provided no respiratory protection, resulting in them being killed instantly. Electrocution The electricity required to power oil equipment poses a hazard to oilfield workers. Also, workers in the vast Texas desert, surrounded by towering metal equipment, are vulnerable to lightning strikes. Electrocution can injure workers in these ways: Burns, Shock, and Unconsciousness. An oil worker who suffers electric shock may not receive prompt emergency response due to the remote location of oil fields. Thus, many electrical accidents kill workers. Types of Compensation Available If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an oilfield accident, you may be able to sue. Texas workers who experience oilfield injuries have access to several potential forms of compensation. Workers’ Compensation Texas employers are not required to cover workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer does carry this insurance, you can file for workers’ comp, but you can’t sue your employer. Workers’ compensation will pay your medical bills and provide you with a portion of your salary for a limited time, depending on the extent of your injuries. This insurance program may also pay for job retraining if you cannot work at your oil field job due to your injuries. Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit However, if your employer does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance, you can sue for a personal injury, survival claim, or wrongful death. An injured worker brings a personal injury lawsuit. The family or estate of a worker who was killed may be able to file a survival claim for the workers’ oil field injuries or a wrongful death claim for the family’s harm. Also, if your oil field injury was caused by a third party—not your employer or a coworker—you may be able to sue that company or individual. For instance, if the oil field equipment malfunctioned and caused your injury, you may be able to sue the manufacturer. How an Oil Field Lawyer Can Help You Navigating the best path to injury compensation can be confusing and difficult to handle...

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Work Injury

What to Do After an Oil Field Accident in Texas

A Texas oil field accident can happen in an instant, changing your life. An accident may leave you injured, out of work, and wondering how to pay your bills. Even worse, an oilfield accident could claim the life of someone you love.  When an accident occurs, you may feel helpless and unsure of whether you deserve compensation. If you need assistance, you’re in the right place. At The Zimmerman Law Firm, our attorneys can help evaluate the circumstances of the accident and let you know what compensation may be available. Know that you’re not alone in this experience. Thousands of other families have suffered oilfield accidents, and our lawyers have represented many of those victims. As our attorneys have learned through years of helping oil field accident victims, you should do a few things to prepare for a possible injury lawsuit. Take the following steps to give yourself the best chance of obtaining maximum compensation. Seek Medical Attention Your priority must be getting medical treatment for serious injuries. By delaying medical treatment, you risk worsening your injury. You also put your ability to recover compensation in question. If your employer assumes you are uninjured, it may be hard to claim otherwise later.  Don’t hesitate to take care of yourself, and let our investigators gather key accident evidence. Your employer may request that you visit a company doctor. This is fine as a first step, but a company doctor may attempt to minimize the extent of your injuries. If you doubt a company doctor’s medical evaluation, you can obtain a second opinion from a neutral doctor.  Don’t feel pressured to return to work before you have recovered from your injuries. That could make things worse. Instead, get the treatment you need, and save all medical reports and invoices. Report Your Accident to Your Employer Inform your employer of your accident and any potential hazard to other employees. Document these details when you notify your employer of the accident:  Date and time of notification, Who you notified, and  Your employer’s response. Complete an incident report, a written account of your accident on a form provided by your employer. Describe the facts of your accident to your employer in an honest manner, but don’t hesitate to contact an attorney for advice if your employer’s questions seem hostile or make you uncomfortable. You usually have a limited time to inform your employer of an accident if you want to qualify for workers’ compensation. Make this report right away. When your employer reports the accident to workers’ compensation, this begins a formal accident investigation. Once the accident investigation is underway, you should not speak to investigators without advice from an attorney. Gather Accident Information If you don’t need immediate medical attention, gather any available accident evidence. Take photos of the accident scene and surrounding work environment. Write down the names and contact information for witnesses to the accident. Write down what you remember about the accident, including details like the time of the accident and sequence of events before the accident.  If you’re hurt and unable to gather these details, don’t worry. Write down anything you remember once you’ve received medical attention. Our investigators can gather other needed details from the scene of the oil field accident. Note others at your workplace who have experienced similar oilfield accidents, and our attorneys can follow up with them. Contact an Oil Field Accident Lawyer You should contact an oilfield accident lawyer as soon as possible after your injury. An attorney can help you get appropriate medical care and advise you on steps to recover compensation. An experienced oilfield attorney also knows the tactics your employer may use to try to deny your claim.  Our attorneys can coach you on questions to expect before interviews or other interactions with your employer or the insurance company. We always advise you to give honest answers, but we help you think through your experience so that you don’t feel intimidated or caught off guard. Our law firm employs skilled investigators who will gather and review all available evidence from your accident. We can determine who was responsible, which may be a different conclusion than your employer asserts. Our attorneys will fight for your just compensation and help you explore all legal options to get the money you need. What Compensation Is Available? When you meet with our attorneys, we’ll inform you of possible strategies to obtain injury compensation.  Workers’ Compensation The most straightforward and first step usually involves filing for workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system of recovery, meaning that even if you caused your accident, you can still file a claim.  In Texas, if your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, it will pay for your medical treatment and a portion of your average weekly wage. Texas workers usually receive from 70 to 80% of their average weekly wage on workers’ compensation, with required maximums and minimums. For instance, you cannot earn more than $971 per week through workers’ compensation, even if that amount is less than 70% of your average weekly wage.  However, you can only receive workers’ compensation benefits for so long. Your workers’ compensation will cease when any of these events occur: You reach maximum medical improvement, meaning further medical treatment won’t help you recover; You return to work (at the same wage as before the accident); or You received temporary wage compensation for 104 weeks. There are some exceptions to these limitations. For instance, if you can’t return to your previous job, you may be eligible for retraining that would allow you to work another job. Also, if you need spinal surgery, you may receive wage benefits for longer than two years. If you are permanently injured, you will be eligible for additional payments. Family members of an employee who was killed on the job may be able to receive workers’ compensation death benefits for a limited time. Workers’ compensation provides the money you need to pay some of your bills while you seek medical...

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