Opting out of workers’ comp? Sky’s the limit on lawsuits — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Opting out of workers’ comp? Sky’s the limit on lawsuits

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Texas law doesn’t require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, but those who don’t may find the cost far higher than the insurance premiums.

That’s because Texas employees who are injured can sue their employers directly for full damages if they can show that their employer was negligent.

Texas law says employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace, with safe equipment, hazard warnings and properly supervised co-workers. If an employer violates these duties and an employee is injured, that worker can collect the full damages if the employer doesn’t carry workers’ comp insurance.

Recent case: Barbara Goss was injured when she tripped over a cart in the walk-in freezer at work. Because her employer had opted not to participate in the Texas workers’ compensation system, she was able to sue the company directly.

A jury awarded her over $725,000 in lost wages, pain and suffering and medical expenses after concluding the employer violated its duty to protect Goss from a trip hazard posed by the unattended cart. (Brookshire Grocery Company v. Goss, No. 06-05-00036, Tex. App.–Texarkana, 2006)

Final tip: Before opting out of the workers’ compensation system, consult your attorney or insurance agent to determine your possible legal exposure. If you choose to forgo workers’ comp, ask about other forms of liability insurance to cover negligence.  

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