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As Texas workers’ compensation lawyers who handle cases all over the state, we see a lot of different work injuries.  People sustain their workplace injury in many different ways.  Sometimes it is their own fault.  Very often, though, a workplace injury is the result of the employer’s negligence.  One of the most common questions we get is whether or not someone can sue an employer for negligence when they get injured at work.  The law states that an employer who has workers’ compensation insurance is protected from being sued for regular negligence. But, they CAN be sued for gross negligence in Texas.

Workers’ Compensation & Negligence in Texas

When the legislature passed workers’ compensation laws in Texas, it specifically protected employers who have workers’ compensation insurance coverage from negligence lawsuits.  They did this as a method to induce employers to buy workers’ compensation insurance.  The legislature wants employees to have access to health care and lost wages in the event of a workplace injury.  That’s why they want to get as many employers as possible to buy workers’ comp insurance. 

The type of insurance an employer buys controls an employee’s ability to sue them for negligence. If an employer buys workers’ compensation insurance coverage, then an injured worker cannot sue them for negligence.  So, even if it is the employer’s fault that you got hurt, you can’t sue them.  However, if that employer does not buy workers’ compensation insurance, then you absolutely CAN sue them for negligence if they are at fault for your injury.

Workplace Death & Gross Negligence In Texas

This is where things change.  An employer can be sued for gross negligence in Texas if the employee died as a result of the accident.  The surviving spouse and family can certainly pursue a claim against an employer if that employer was grossly negligent and caused the death of the employee. 

Gross negligence is more than simple negligence.  Gross negligence in Texas workplace injuries occurs when the employer does something that they know is extremely risky but they do it anyway without regard to the safety of the employees.  It’s harder to prove than regular negligence. This is because you have to prove that they knew what they were doing and the risks involved, but they decided to do it anyway.  And, you have to prove that by clear and convincing evidence.

Simple negligence is something like a car wreck.  One driver looks at their phone and doesn’t stop in time to keep from rear-ending the car ahead.  Gross negligence is more significant.  An example of gross negligence in Texas would be removing the safety equipment on dangerous machinery. Employers often do this so the machine can operate at a faster pace.  Another example would be a company who fails to provide safety gear to employees working on scaffolding.  Employees who work at heights can fall to their death. If they are not allowed to tie off, or don’t have safety railing atop the scaffolding, that is gross negligence. 

Work Injury Lawyers

When employers know about a problem and choose not to fix it regardless of the risks involved, that can be considered gross negligence.  If your spouse or loved one was killed on the job because of an employer’s gross negligence in Texas, then we need to investigate the facts as soon as possible. We need to plan a path forward for a recovery beyond the workers’ compensation system.  In this situation, a surviving spouse can receive death benefits as a Texas workers’ compensation recovery. In addition, they can also pursue a lawsuit against the employer for gross negligence in Texas at the same time.