Texas Workers Comp Policy Does Not Require Workers Comp Coverage, Leading to Numerous Worker Injury Problems
Although Texas appears to be a state with a booming industry, especially in construction, the perceived economic growth glosses over a statewide problem with Texas workers comp policy, involving worker injuries and a lack of workers comp.
According to a recent report, Texas leads the nation in worker fatalities in 7 of the last 10 years. Worse, when a Texas worker is injured on the job, they face a workers comp industry stymied by restrictive contracts, poor but expensive coverage, and Texas workers comp policy regulations that make workers comp coverage voluntary instead of mandatory.
About 81% of the state’s workers are covered, like all workers in every other state in the nation, by a state-regulated compensation system, which provides standard and expected benefits when a worker is injured on the job, such as partial income during disability recovery, medical payments during treatment of the injury, and survivors’ benefits for the spouses and family members of those who are killed on the job. However, Texas does not require employers to purchase workers comp, so many workers are left out in the cold when they are injured: about 1 million Texas workers are covered by private occupational insurance, which is not state-regulated and therefore allows insurers to strictly limit coverage, and worse, about 500,000 workers in the state, or 6% of the work force, are not covered by any sort of workers comp at all.
Texas’s Workers Comp commissioner, Rod Bordelon, says that the Texas state-regulated system is “terrific,” and that claims are down, cost of coverage is down, and fewer injuries have been reported. In spite of these miracle claims, Texas has one of the highest worker-to-inspector ratios in the country, suggesting that too many employers violate OSHA guidelines. In addition, while Texas has a system set up to keep track of which employers have opted out of the state-regulated workers comp system, a report suggests that 90% of those employers failed to report to that to the state, and random audits by the state suggest that at least 25% of companies fail to report lost-time injuries or fatalities.
Employers that fail to report injuries or fatalities face heavy fines according to Texas law, but division officials admit that fines for not reporting are infrequent, and the highest possible fine is almost never imparted. Since 2009, the workers comp division has issued $80,000 in fines for violations, although employers who merely fail to report injuries can legally face up to $25,000 in fines per day until they comply.
“We live in a state which prides itself on fewer government regulations, and some see mandatory work comp as just another government regulation hampering business,” said State Representative Paul Workman, Republican of Austin. Mr. Workman has offered legislation to make workers comp coverage mandatory in the construction industry in Texas, but the bill died in committee.
Because of the voluntary state of workers comp coverage, injured workers and their employers often settle disability claims informally. Mr. Bordelon claims that the system encourages both sides to work out their differences, but the state’s system puts workers in a vulnerable position when it comes to financial assistance.
“They throw these workers away like tissue paper. They’re nothing more than a used Kleenex,” said Joe Longley, an Austin employment attorney who served as chief of the consumer protection division of the attorney general’s office in the 1970s. “We don’t provide for the workers. We provide for the businesses.”
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The workers’ comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.