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June 30, 2024 | Lopez Franco PLLC

Wrongful Death in Workplace Accidents: Employer Liability

Workers’ compensation is an insurance program managed by the State of Texas. It provides pay and medical benefits to employees who have a work-related injury or illness. The employer pays a private insurance carrier for workers’ compensation insurance.

Unlike nearly all other states, most Texas employers are NOT required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees. Those employers that do not are described as “non-subscribers.” In many instances, employers elect not to subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance to save money. They may also elect not to subscribe due to a small number of employees. 

As of 2022, data from the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation, shows that about 25% of employers do not carry workers’ compensation.  

Note that the following Texas employers MUST carry workers’ compensation insurance:

  • Any public employer, including cities, counties, state agencies, and state universities
  • Building and construction contractors for public employers
  • Motor bus companies and motor carriers
  • Combustible gas dealers, including liquid propane and compressed natural gas
  • Companies that operate a work furlough program for inmates 

Failure to subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance is usually a measure to save costs from the employer’s perspective. However, it can often prove more expensive in the long run, leaving employers vulnerable to all kinds of workplace accident lawsuits. From an employer’s perspective, a key benefit of the workers’ compensation system is the limitations on legal recourse in the event of a workplace accident or injury. Any injured employee is required to apply for benefits or compensation via this system, and these benefits are strictly regulated. 

With workers’ compensation coverage, business owners and employees can experience many benefits such as: 

  • Income benefits, like lost wages from missing work
  • Medical benefits to help treat workplace injuries or illnesses
  • Legal benefits if a worker’s family sues your business
  • Death benefits to an employee’s family if they lose their life in a work-related accident

This is effectively a “no-fault” system. That means an employee does not need to legally establish negligence or malpractice on the part of the employer to receive their rightful benefits. On the other hand, the employer is protected from any additional liability.

Non-Subscribing Employers

If an employer does not subscribe to workers’ compensation, an injured employee can sue the employer under the legal theory of wrongful death. While this can be a slow and laborious process, plaintiffs can often obtain larger financial settlements from employers. Several defenses are foreclosed to non-subscribers. These include the following defenses: 

  • The employee assumed the risk of the danger
  • The injury was caused by another employee rather than the employer
  • The employee’s negligence caused the injury

Contact a Houston Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If your loved one has been killed in a workplace accident and their employer is a non-subscriber to the Texas workers’ compensation system, contact us today. Wrongful death cases are complex and difficult, and it’s important to work with a Houston wrongful death attorney who is experienced in this area. Contact to help you understand your path forward.