In Texas, injured employees can sue their employers only under certain circumstances. In work injury lawsuits, the law allows defendant employers to present a few defenses.
Clients often ask if it matters if their work injury occurred while performing a routine job or task. The truth is that it can make a difference under certain circumstances.
That said, the law is complicated, so it is worth exploring the “routine task” defense in more depth.
If you are an injured worker considering whether to file a lawsuit against your employer, you won’t want to miss this article.
Understanding Texas Workers Compensation Law and Non-Subscriber Employers
Texas is the only state that does not mandate workers’ compensation insurance, which means employers can decide not to carry Texas workers’ compensation non-subscriber insurance.
Companies that make this choice are called “non-subscribers” because they choose not to subscribe to this important insurance.
If an employer does carry this insurance, employees must go through workers’ compensation if they get injured, which typically means they cannot sue their employer for damages.
However, if your employer is a non-subscriber, you can sue them for full damages if you get injured at work. As of 2019, almost 20% of Texas employees work for companies that are non-subscribers.
However, the law applies slightly differently to non-subscribers, and there are various defenses they can assert in work injury cases. For instance, your employer can claim that:
- The injury took place outside the course and scope of your employment;
- You signed a waiver of rights after the injury;
- You were intoxicated with drugs or alcohol at the time of the injury;
- You intentionally inflicted the injury yourself; or
- You suffered injuries because of a known hazard.
Your employer can also use the “routine job” or “routine task” defense in Texas non-subscriber cases.
What Is the Routine Job Defense?
If your employer is asserting the routine job defense, they are claiming that they cannot be held liable for your injury because the job was routine and not hazardous.
The logic behind this claim is that if the job was routine and not generally viewed as hazardous, there was no way your employer could have foreseen that you would suffer injuries. And because they could not predict it, there was no way they could have taken steps to prevent your injury.
Understanding the Role of the Routine Job Defense Within the Larger Legal Landscape
Now you might be wondering how this defense fits into your case. Texas non-subscriber cases require employees to demonstrate their employer was negligent. To prove negligence, you would need to prove four things.
- Your employer owed you a reasonable duty of care. To prevail on this point, you need to show that you were an employee of a non-subscriber company and that you were acting in the course and scope of employment.
- Your employer breached their duty of care to you. Proving breach means showing that your employer took or failed to take specific actions and that behavior put you in harm’s way (e.g., failing to post safety signs, giving you faulty safety equipment, or failing to conduct routine maintenance on work tools).
- Your employer’s breach of duty caused your injury. Here, you will need to prove that your employer’s careless act (or failure to act) caused your injury (e.g., your employer failed to put a warning sign by an open manhole, causing you to fall in the manhole because you did not see it).
- Your employer’s breach of duty resulted in your damages. In this context, damages can include things like physical injuries, mental trauma, medical bills, and lost wages.
The routine job defense focuses primarily on the “causation” and “breach” elements. Your employer will try to argue that your injury was unforeseeable because of the kind of job you were doing.
If they are successful, you may not be able to prove negligence because there was no possible way for your employer to foresee that you would be injured.
Don’t Risk Your Future Security. Contact Us Today to Receive the Representation You Deserve.
Our attorneys at Armstrong Lee & Baker LLP are highly experienced and dedicated legal problem solvers. We have seen all kinds of worker injury cases in Texas.
That means we know all the defenses employers typically use to get out of paying damages. Our approach is to fight hard for our clients so that they can rebuild their lives and get the justice they deserve. We pride ourselves on doing whatever it takes to get the results our clients need.
Maybe you are considering filing a lawsuit against your employer. Or perhaps you are already in the middle of a lawsuit. Whatever your situation, give us a call today.