How do I know what kind of case I have?
Often the first question a client asks is "What kind of case do I have?" Usually, we know the answer after we take a detailed history from the client. Sometimes, we need to investigate before we know the answer. Occasionally, because a case may be unique, the law is unclear. Below are basic descriptions of the types of cases clients and lawyers often confuse.
Texas State Worker's Compensation cases
The bulk of land-based injuries fall under the Texas State Worker's Compensation Act. As a general rule the further inland you are from the water's edge at the time of injury, the more certain it is that you have a state compensation case. The Texas State Act is administered by the Texas Worker's Compensation Commission. The Act sets up an administrative system that basically provides for three levels of benefits: (TIES) - Temporary Income Benefits; (SIBS) - Supplemental Income Benefits and (IIBS) - Impairment Income Benefits.
Cases arising under the Longshore Act (L.H.W.C.A.) usually occur on navigable water or near the water's edge. The law considers an injured worker's "status" and accident "situs". "Status" means the type of work performed. "Situs" means where the accident took place. As a general guide, one can use a "smell test" to determine whether a case falls under the Longshore Act. If the injured person can smell the gulf or sea air at the time of injury, there is a good chance that the case falls under the Longshore Act. While this test seems rather simple, it works more often than not.
The Longshore Act is administered by the United States Department of Labor. It is also an administrative system, except that the Federal Government controls the case and not the Sate of Texas. Longshore cases can provide a greater level of benefits than a Texas State Compensation case and a lawyer can help the injured worker through active involvement in the case.
For detailed information about the LHWCA see the publications section of this site
Jones Act cases
Seamen's cases are commonly referred to as Jones Act cases. It is often hard to tell the difference between a Jones Act case, a Longshore case and a Texas State Compensation case. Generally, the injured worker needs to be assigned to a vessel or identifiable fleet of vessels in order to be considered a seaman. The injury can occur on navigable water or on land. It is the injured person's connection with a vessel that generally determines whether there is a Jones Act cases. That is the key ingredient. Generally, the injured worker files suit under the Jones Act for negligence and under the general maritime law for vessel unseaworthiness. These cases are similar to "third-party" cases in that they are brought in state or federal court and can be tried in front of a jury. The damages are broader than under the Texas State Compensation Act or the Longshore Act. The injured worker can be awarded all of his past and future lost wages, plus pain, suffering, mental anguish and impairment. On the other hand, the Texas State Compensation Act and the Longshore Act only pay for a portion of lost past and future wages.
Third-party cases usually refer to cases where a worker is injured and sues a party other than his or her employer for damages. Usually, there is a legal bar against suing one's own employer for on the job injuries. Thus, the injured worker is left with a worker's compensation remedy and cannot sue the employer no matter how much negligence can be shown. While that may not seem fair, it is viewed as the trade-off for receiving compensation and medical benefits without having to prove employer fault. Thus, someone other than a fellow worker or the employer must cause the injuries in order to bring a third-party suit. Third-party cases can occur in a variety of ways. The easiest way to identify a third-party case is for an injured person to contact our office after an on the job injury. Remember that a third-party case can result from something that a third-party did, something that they didn't do or from a defective product. Many third-party cases that we have successfully handled for our clients were caused by a piece of machinery or equipment that broke or malfunctioned causing an injury.
We hope that you now have a better understanding of the
basic types of cases clients often confuse. Don't feel bad if all of this
sounds complicated. It is not easy to grasp. A lot of this confuses lawyers.
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