Workplace Accidents and Wrongful Death in Texas
It is always tragic when a workplace accident claims the life of a loved one. While Texas Statute 71.001 allows certain surviving family members to pursue compensation against responsible parties, there is an unfortunate exception. In Texas, employers who legitimately subscribe to workers' compensation cannot be sued for a work accident that results in wrongful death. However, there is also an exception to this. When gross negligence resulted in a fatality causing event, employers are not protected from claims.
Gross Negligence in Texas
Negligence occurs when the employer does something that is below an acceptable level of performance or demonstrates significant incompetence while performing their duties. In Texas, employers are protected against wrongful deaths that occur because of simple negligence.
Gross negligence is a different ballgame. This involves showing a willful disregard for employees' safety or deliberately failing to provide a reasonable level of care to protect employees. Gross negligence can involve:
- Falsifying safety records
- Removing machine guards
- Failing to provide employees proper protective gear
- Failing to maintain equipment
- Ignoring known safety hazards that have caused previous injuries
- Failing to terminate the employment of an employee whose drug/alcohol addictions place other employees at risk
- Deliberately ignoring safety protocols for the sake of expediency
Workers' Comp and Employers Who "Opt-Out"
Workers' Comp in Texas provides limited death benefits. These barely cover the cost of burial and funeral expenses, and you can pursue these in addition to a wrongful death claim when gross negligence is involved—however, many employers in Texas opt-out of the state's workers' compensation insurance program. Employers who opt out are not protected by statute, and surviving family members can pursue them regardless of whether the wrongful death occurred because of negligence or gross negligence. Indeed, many employers purchase copycat insurance policies in the hopes that they will protect them from wrongful death lawsuits. However, these plans do not offer statutory protection, and a wrongful death attorney can quickly see through this thin and flimsy defense.
The team at Welmaker Injury Law knows that it is never easy to lose a loved one. When you need a wrongful death attorney, you can depend on our team to go the extra mile for your family. We encourage you to contact us at (210) 828-6033 for more information about our services and the compensation you can pursue following a wrongful death in the workplace.