In a car wreck involving an employee on the job, there are unique legal considerations that both the employee and employer must navigate. These considerations will determine the direction of any legal claims, the parties involved, and the types of compensation that may be available. If you’ve been injured in a car accident in a working situation, be sure to work with a Hempstead, TX and Bryan, TX car wreck lawyer with extensive experience to ensure your rights are fully protected.
20 Legal Considerations of a Car Wreck Involving Working Employees
1. Determining Liability
The first legal consideration is determining liability. Texas follows a “modified comparative fault” rule, meaning that if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you cannot recover damages. It’s crucial to establish who was responsible for the accident, as this will affect the ability to claim compensation.
2. Workers’ Compensation
As an employee involved in a car wreck while performing work-related duties, you are generally entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim. Texas law does not require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, but many do. This insurance provides medical benefits and a portion of your lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If you’re covered by workers’ comp, your employer was not negligent, and there was no third party at fault, you will likely not be able to bring a lawsuit. However, if your employer does not subscribe to the Texas workers’ compensation system, you may have the right to sue. This could result in a higher compensation amount, but you’ll need to prove that the employer’s negligence directly caused the accident and your injuries.
3. Employer Liability
Under Texas law, an employer can be held liable for a car accident if you, as their employee, were acting within the scope of employment when the accident occurred. If the employer negligently entrusted a vehicle to an employee who was unfit to drive, the employer could also be held liable.
4. Third-Party Claims
In some cases, you may have the right to file a third-party claim against another driver or another entity responsible for the accident, separate from your workers’ compensation claim. This can include claims for pain and suffering, which are not recoverable under workers’ compensation.
5. Documentation and Reporting the Accident
After a car accident, it’s imperative to document the incident and report it to the proper authorities. Notify your employer immediately and file a report with the police. Collecting evidence at the scene, such as photos of the damage, witness statements, and a copy of the police report, will be crucial for any legal actions or claims you pursue.
6. Statute of Limitations
In Texas, there is a statute of limitations that applies to both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits. You typically have one year to file a workers’ compensation claim and two years for a personal injury lawsuit from the date of the car wreck. It’s crucial to initiate legal proceedings within these time frames, or you risk losing your right to compensation.
7. Insurance Claims Process
Texas requires drivers to have minimum amounts of liability insurance, and if another driver is at fault, you’ll need to deal with their insurance company. You may also have to deal with an employer insurer. Filing an insurance claim involves notifying the insurer, submitting evidence of the accident, and detailing your injuries and property damage. It’s important to be cautious when speaking with insurance adjusters, as their goal is to minimize the company’s payouts. Always ask your lawyer before talking with insurance representatives.
8. Potential for Disability Benefits
If your injuries from the car wreck are severe, you may be eligible for temporary or permanent disability benefits under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Temporary benefits can help while you’re recovering and unable to work, while permanent disability benefits may be available if your injuries prevent you from returning to work at all.
9. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Involvement
If the car wreck occurred due to a workplace safety issue, OSHA may get involved. Employers in Texas must adhere to OSHA regulations to provide safe working environments, including vehicle safety for employees.
10. Seeking Legal Counsel
Seeking the help of a car wreck lawyer is always smart, as their professional experienced in Texas law can be invaluable. An attorney can help determine the worth of your claim, negotiate on your behalf, represent you in court, and ensure you don’t miss crucial deadlines while filing all paperwork correctly.
11. Mitigating Damages
Texas law requires you to mitigate your damages. This means you are expected to take reasonable steps to minimize the financial impact of the accident, such as seeking prompt medical treatment and not engaging in activities that could worsen your injuries.
12. Confidentiality and Settlement Agreements
If you reach a settlement with an insurance company or your employer, you may be required to sign a confidentiality agreement. It’s essential to understand the terms of any settlement agreement before signing, as it could affect your ability to speak about the accident or pursue further compensation.
13. Impact on Employment
Texas is an at-will employment state, meaning that an employer can terminate employment for any reason. However, an employer cannot legally fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Ask your lawyer about this, how it may affect you, and how best to protect your rights.
14. Tax Implications of Settlements
While workers’ compensation benefits are typically not taxable, portions of a settlement from a third-party claim, such as for pain and suffering, may be taxable. Consult with a tax professional to understand the tax liabilities associated with your compensation. A good lawyer will be able to suggest qualified tax consultants.
15. Car Wreck Involving Commercial Vehicles
If you were driving a commercial vehicle or were hit by one, there are additional regulations and insurance considerations. Commercial drivers in Texas must adhere to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, which could impact liability and the claims process.
16. Role of Expert Witnesses
Medical experts, accident reconstruction specialists, and economic loss experts may be necessary to establish the extent of injuries, how the accident occurred, and the financial impact of your injuries and lost wages. Your lawyer will have a network of such experts to draw on to help prove your case.
17. Loss of Consortium Claims
If you are married, and your injuries from the car wreck severely impact your relationship, your spouse may have a claim for loss of consortium. This refers to the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship, including companionship, affection, and sexual relations.
18. Non-Economic Damages
Texas law allows you to seek compensation for non-economic damages if you are able to bring a lawsuit. These are subjective and may include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life. Calculating these damages requires legal expertise.
19. Denials of Workers’ Compensation Claims
If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you have the right to challenge the decision. This process involves several steps, and each step has specific deadlines and requirements under Texas law. Your lawyer will be able to help you stay in compliance with all requirements.
20. Privacy Concerns Post-Accident
Understanding your privacy rights is important to ensure that only necessary medical and work-related information is disclosed. Your lawyer will work hard to protect your privacy and ensure that only what’s actually needed is released to any party involved.
Work With a Qualified Hempstead, TX and Bryan, TX Car Wreck Lawyer
As you can see, there are many considerations after a car wreck, so don’t try to get through it alone. To get help, contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer, right away for a free consultation.