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Employees working for companies who subscribe to workers’ compensation cannot sue their employer if they suffer an injury on the job.

However, when an employee of a company that does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance suffers a work-related injury, they may sue their employer and potentially collect compensation for their damages. 

In non-employment personal injury cases, “contributory negligence” is a common defense that can either reduce the injured party’s settlement or prevent them from collecting compensation outright.

But what is contributory negligence? And can non-subscriber employers invoke this common personal injury defense to shield themselves from work-related employee injury claims?

Contributory negligence is a term and concept commonly used by the defense to argue that the injured party’s actions played a role in causing their injuries, thus reducing the defense’s liability.

However, Texas law bars non-subscriber employers from using contributory negligence as a defense in workplace personal injury cases.

In fact, Texas lawmakers abolished non-subscriber contributory negligence because the doctrine unfairly disadvantaged injured workers. 

Today we’ll discuss non-subscriber employers, contributory negligence, and whether it applies to non-subscriber personal injury cases. If you have any questions, please contact us today.

What Is a Texas Non-Subscriber Employer?

Unlike most states, Texas does not require employers to subscribe to workers’ compensation coverage.

Instead, Texas allows employers to opt out of the state-run workers’ compensation system, creating a category of employers known as “non-subscribers.”

Texas non-subscriber status allows employers more freedom in managing their injury claims. It also allows employers to provide alternative coverage for workplace injuries.

Who Can Be a Non-Subscriber?

Any business can choose not to subscribe to Texas workers’ compensation, whether a small regional business or a Fortune 500 company.

However, non-subscriber status allows employees injured in workplace accidents to sue their employer and seek compensation for damages. 

What Difference Does It Make to an Employee?

In other words, injured workers cannot typically sue companies that subscribe to workers’ compensation. Instead, if your company does subscribe, you must go through workers’ comp to get compensation for your medical and other costs.

This is both good and bad because getting a workers’ comp award is easier, but it tends to pay less. It is easier because you don’t have to show that your employer was negligent to get compensated.

As an employee, you could be mostly at fault for the accident and still get compensated. However, you likely won’t get as much as if you were able to sue the company directly because workers’ comp does not pay for intangible losses like pain and suffering. 

Conversely, an employee who has suffered a non-subscriber worker injury does not have to accept what workers’ comp is willing to pay.

They can file a claim or lawsuit, prove negligence, and get fully compensated for both economic and non-economic losses like pain and suffering.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Contributory negligence is a legal concept that addresses the extent to which an injured party may have contributed to their injuries.

The best way to define contributory negligence is this: if your actions or behavior were careless or negligent and contributed to your accident, a court may reduce or altogether bar you from compensation.

In non-employment-related personal injury cases, the party being sued can raise contributory negligence as a defense. Essentially, this defense allows the defendant to claim that their own negligence releases them from some or all liability. 

Can a Non-Subscriber Employer Use a Contributory Negligence Defense Against an Injured Employee?

The Texas legislature has persistently pushed for employer participation in the workers’ compensation program.

Allowing employees to sue non-subscriber employers is one way the state encourages employers to subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance.

Another way they encourage participation in workers’ comp is by depriving non-subscriber employers of several defenses. One of them is the contributory negligence defense discussed above.

Texas law bars this defense in non-subscriber employment injury cases. This means that non-subscriber employers are not allowed to use your partial responsibility for your injuries as a defense when you sue them for a work-related accident.

As such, you can hold your employer fully liable for all damages—even if your employer only played a minor role in your accident and you were primarily responsible. In other words, if you can prove your employer was more than 0% negligent, your employer must pay for 100% of your damages.

Are There Exceptions to the Non-Subscriber Contributory Negligence Rule?

There are two statutory exceptions to the non-subscriber contributory negligence rule discussed above. If you intended to cause your injury or were intoxicated when the injury occurred, the employer cannot be held liable.

Though not an exception to the contributory negligence rule, there are other times when your behavior as an employee can bar compensation. For example, if your negligence was the sole cause of your injury, known as “sole proximate cause,” you will not be able to recover damages.

In the sole proximate cause defense, the employer claims that you were entirely responsible for your injuries. In other words, your behavior did not just contribute to the negligence that resulted in injury, but was the sole reason for it.

Non-subscriber employers can also claim defenses outside contributory negligence to bar an employee’s claim.

For this reason, it is best to consult with an experienced work injury attorney who understands Texas contributory negligence non-subscriber laws and other non-subscriber defenses.

A skilled work injury attorney can review your case and protect your rights while they fight for the compensation you’re entitled to.

Contact the Work Injury Experts at The Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C.

Texas non-subscriber workers’ compensation and injury laws can be confusing. But The Zimmerman Law Firm’s experienced workplace injury attorneys can clearly explain your rights, review your case, and help you understand your options.

With over 85 years of shared experience and dedicated know-how between us, we pride ourselves on providing the kind of personalized service and aggressive representation you need.

We’ve won over nine million dollars in verdicts and settlements for clients and helped thousands of Texans win their non-subscriber workplace injury claims.

Call us today at 254-232-6283 or contact us online for a free consultation.

When you work with The Zimmerman Law Firm, you can rest assured that our award-winning workplace injury attorneys will handle your non-subscriber injury claim with the consideration, passion, and know-how your case deserves.

Author Photo

Michael Zimmerman

Michael was born in Houston, Texas. His education at Baylor and Texas State Universities earned him a Bachelor of Science degree in 1987. His major was in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry. He finished his legal education at Texas Southern University in 1990, earning a Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1990.