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When you hear the words “safe place,” you might think of the yellow, diamond-shaped signs meant to signal to children and teenagers that they can enter the building bearing that sign if they are in crisis. Maybe you think of a space in which you are encouraged to voice your opinion without facing any judgment. However, there is an entire statutory scheme devoted to safe places in an entirely different context.
While some workplaces are inherently more dangerous than others, every employee deserves to work without fear or risk of injury. Keep reading to learn about the duty your workplace owes to you to ensure your safety while on the job. Then, if your place of work failed to keep you safe, call a Zinda Law Group personal injury lawyer at (800) 863-5312 to receive a free case evaluation.
Safe place statute faqs
To help you understand what safe place statutes are and how they work, we will answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the duty of an employer to keep the workplace safe for employees. If you read through these questions and answers and think your employer failed to meet a duty to keep you safe, you might talk to an attorney to see what compensation you are eligible to receive.
What Are Safe Place Statutes?
Safe place statutes are laws that establish the duty of an employer to keep a workplace safe. The purpose of such statutes is to keep employees safe and to encourage employers to take measures to correct any hazardous conditions of the place of work or the job itself. While these statutes may vary in their breadth and depth of coverage, many states include some statement about workplace safety in their labor codes.
Wisconsin, for example, includes a broad description of what employers must provide: “Every employer shall furnish employment which shall be safe for the employees therein and shall furnish a place of employment which shall be safe for employees therein and for frequenters thereof and shall furnish and use safety devices and safeguards, and shall adopt and use methods and processes reasonably adequate to render such employment and places of employment safe, and shall do every other thing reasonably necessary to protect the life, health, safety, and welfare of such employees and frequenters.” The statute goes on to declare that no employer shall permit an employee to work in unsafe conditions and that no employee shall remove devices that make employment safer.
Which States Have Safe Place Statutes?
The vast majority of states (all except Texas) provide compensation for their workers’ injuries through worker’s compensation, which we will discuss in more depth later. While several states have safe place statutes, few call them by that name. Talk to an injury lawyer to find out if your state has a statute that protects workers’ right to a safe workplace.
What If I Live in Texas?
Texas does not have a safe place statute; additionally, Texas is the only state that does not require employers to provide worker’s compensation. Employers can voluntarily provide worker’s compensation by subscribing to worker’s compensation insurance. Worker’s compensation allows employees to recover for work-related injuries but precludes them from suing their employers, and the amount of money the employer pays the employee for the injury is predetermined by the amount the statute describes for such an injury.
The closest the state comes to protecting workers statutorily in cases of personal injury is in Section 406.033 of Texas’s labor code. That section provides that an employer who does not provide worker’s compensation may not claim as a defense to its negligence that (1) the employee was guilty of contributory negligence; (2) the employee assumed the risk of injury or death; or (3) the injury or death was caused by the negligence of a fellow employee.
This might seem to paint a bleak picture about worker’s rights in Texas. However, there are common law (also called case law) protections for Texas workers that are legally binding on employers. An injured Texas worker can sue under a theory of negligence; Zinda Law Group workplace injury lawyers in Texas can help.
Safe Place Case Law in Texas
Laws that come through the rulings of cases are just as important as those the legislature passes into statutes. Case law is binding on courts, so when the Texas Supreme Court or a Texas Court of Appeals releases an opinion, all of the lower courts in Texas must abide by that ruling.
The history of safe workplace case law in Texas is not employee friendly. It has taken many years and many cases before Texas courts to better define the duty of the employer to make employment safe for employees. Within this duty of employers to employees are the duties that landowners owe the people they invite onto their premises.
After Kroger Co. v. Milanes, Texas courts have made it clear that employers have a general duty to keep the workplace safe, a premises-liability duty, and a duty to provide employees with the necessary tools to perform the job safely. But how far do these workplace duties extend?
What Are My Rights in Texas Today?
Austin v. Kroger Texas, a case from the Texas Supreme Court, affirmed that an employer has a duty to “provide a safe workplace” (except where the hazard is open and obvious) and ruled that an employer must either make a hazard safe or warn employees of the danger. There are only two scenarios in which the employer does not have the duty to make a condition safe or to warn an employee of the danger. Those are (1) when the dangerous conditions result from the foreseeable criminal activity of a third party, and (2) when it is necessary for the employee to use unreasonably dangerous premises, and the employee cannot take precautions to reduce the risk.
Proving a Negligence Case
We have talked about the duties your employer might owe you, but that is only one element that the plaintiff must prove in a negligence case. Barring the exceptions mentioned above, the injured party must generally show the following elements to prove a case for negligence:
1. Your employer had a duty to provide you with a safe workplace.
2. Your employer failed to provide you with a safe workplace.
3. You received an injury for which you can receive compensation.
4. Your employer caused your injury.
Bear in mind that there are more specific duties that make up the employer’s broad duty to provide a safe workplace, but those might look different in each case. For example, in Austin v. Texas, the court had to determine whether the employer had a duty to protect the employee against hazards the employee knew about but had to remedy as part of the job; there, the employer was not liable to an employee who fell and was injured while mopping a spill as part of his duties. If you are wondering whether your employer owed you a specific duty within its general duty to provide you with a safe workplace, speak with a personal injury lawyer.
What can a lawyer do to help?
It can be difficult to prove the elements of negligence, especially when each state is riddled with exceptions to rules and exceptions to those exceptions. A lawyer near you will be able to identify exactly how to approach each of the elements in your case.
Additionally, court rules and procedures can be difficult to follow for those who are not familiar with them. You must file in the correct court within the statute of limitation with a claim for which relief may be sought; you could also be dealing with your employer’s lawyer and with insurance companies, each with the goal of reducing the amount of compensation you receive. You can use the help of someone who deals with these challenges every day to take the burden off of yourself; Zinda Law Group may be the team of attorneys who can help you.
How can I talk to a lawyer near me?
As we have discussed in this article, your workplace has a duty to protect you from certain injuries. If your workplace failed to meet its legal obligation to keep you safe, you deserve a settlement or judgment to get the closure you need. Reach out to a lawyer near to you see if you could recover for your injury.
As you recover from your workplace injury, you can have an experienced advocate on your side to help you through the stages of litigation. Contact the Zinda Law Group lawyers at (800) 863-5312 today. Our injury lawyers will listen to you describe the conditions of your workplace that caused you to become injured, and then they can help you determine the next steps for your case.
There is no need to go through this process alone. As a Zinda Law Group client, you will receive both a free attorney consultation and our No Win, No Fee Guarantee. That means that we take on the risk of your case, and you do not pay us unless we win your case for you.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.