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Texas Non-Subscriber Lawyer

How do injured workers go about obtaining compensation if they become injured on the job? The most common option is to file a workers’ compensation claim. In Texas, however, that’s not always possible—because private employers in this state are not required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. These employers are known as non-subscribers.

Fortunately, it is still possible for injured workers in Texas to get the remuneration they deserve from a non-subscriber employer. The Texas-based non-subscriber attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., can guide you through the process of getting compensation.


The Limits of Workers’ Compensation in Texas

Workers’ compensation programs help injured workplace personnel obtain financial remuneration by providing a simple, streamlined claims process that addresses and balances the competing needs of employees and employers. These programs were established to help employers avoid going bankrupt as a result of personal injury lawsuits.

In a workers’ compensation case, the employee who has, for example, been injured while working at Walmart does not need to prove negligence on the part of the employer. The employee also relinquishes the right to bring a personal injury case against their employer. These rules make the claims process simple while capping the amount of money that can be paid out to an employee.

Workers’ compensation generally takes the form of weekly payments. The purpose of these payments is to compensate the injured employee for lost wages, impaired employment prospects, and/or medical expenses incurred. “Pain and suffering” awards are not available under workers’ compensation. If the employee suffers fatal injuries, however, workers’ compensation can provide burial expenses and additional recompense to the family.

Employers opt into a workers’ comp program by purchasing an insurance policy, usually from a private company, that complies with the criteria of the state in which the employer is based. Texas is the only state in the union that does not, in general, require private employers to participate in some kind of workers’ compensation program. (There are exceptions to this law, such as private businesses that enter into employment contracts with government entities.) Employers in fields that do not require a significant degree of physical labor, such as office-based industries, are more likely to abstain from workers’ compensation.

In practice, the majority of employers in Texas voluntarily participate in a workers’ comp program (or an equivalent), which means that the claims process for these cases proceeds more or less as it does elsewhere in the country. These cases follow the guidelines of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. Alternatively, some employers are enrolled in the Certified Self-Insurance (CSI) program that is available in Texas to private employers that can comply with certain requirements. But what happens with a case involving an employer that does not have any type of personal injury insurance?


What Is a Non-Subscriber Employer?

In Texas, an employer that does not participate in a workers’ compensation program is called a non-subscriber. An employee who is injured while performing their job duties for such an employer cannot collect workers’ compensation. You may have heard of “non-subscriber workers comp,” but in reality there is no such thing. However, an employee in this situation can still file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.

In 2016, 22 percent of Texas employers were reported to be non-subscribers.


How Do You Know If Your Texas Employer Is a Non-Subscriber?

You can’t proceed with a claim until you verify whether your employer participates in workers’ compensation, the Certified Self-Insurance program, or no insurance (non-subscriber). The type of insurance your employer has, or whether they have any at all, will determine how you will go about collecting compensation. This information is often found in the company’s employee handbook. You can also verify workers’ compensation coverage (or its absence) on the Texas Department of Insurance website.

A company that participates in the Certified Self-Insurance program will have a Certificate of Authority to Self-Insure from the Texas Department of Insurance. Bear in mind that a business that claims to be “self-insured” may have a policy from an insurance company that is not involved with the state’s CSI program; these businesses are regarded by the State of Texas as non-subscribers.


Non-Subscriber Work Injury Claims in Texas

Non-subscriber cases do not go through the standard workers’ compensation system. Instead, non-subscriber cases are treated much like any other personal injury lawsuit in Texas. This is good news and bad news for plaintiffs in non-subscriber cases.

  • The good news for persons who wish to make a non-subscriber work injury claim is that they are not subject to the restrictions imposed by the workers’ compensation system. For one thing, they are allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit, which is ordinarily not permitted when the employer has workers’ compensation insurance. It’s also possible to obtain substantially more money than a workers’ compensation claim would offer. Unlike workers’ compensation claims, non-subscriber cases allow pain and suffering damages.

Furthermore, the plaintiff in a Texas non-subscriber case has a few advantages that are not available in a conventional personal injury lawsuit. Texas Labor Code Sec. 406.033 forbids the non-subscriber defendant from presenting a few key defenses:

  • The defendant cannot claim that the plaintiff is guilty of contributory negligence (i.e., that the injured party was partly at fault). Exceptions to this are cases where the plaintiff was intoxicated or intentionally injured themselves.
  • The defendant cannot claim that the employee “assumed the risk of injury or death.”
  • The defendant cannot claim that the incident was caused by another employee’s negligence.

The bad news is that plaintiffs do not enjoy the benefits of a speedy claims process. With workers’ compensation, the injured party can file a claim and begin receiving renumeration fairly quickly. That’s partly because the workers’ compensation system does not require the plaintiff to prove the employer was at fault. By contrast, a Texas non-subscriber case, like all personal injury suits, can take quite a while to make its way through the courts—and success is not certain. The plaintiff must be able to prove the defendant’s negligence.

Contact Our Non-Subscriber Attorneys in Texas

When it comes to dealing with the Texas legal system, having the right personal injury lawyers on your side is extremely important. Defendants in Texas non-subscriber cases often throw many roadblocks in way of plaintiffs, so you need experienced attorneys to help you manage these obstacles. Whether you’re employed by a small business or a large chain (e.g., McDonald’s, Walmart, Albertsons, Home Depot, Target, H-E-B, Safeway, Whole Foods, Kroger, Sears, Nordstrom’s, Sysco) workers’ compensation or another form of payment is available for your injury.

Feel free to contact the non-subscriber attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. You can reach our Houston, TX law office by phone at 713-364-0723. Ask for a free case consultation.


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Jonathan S. Harris and Matthew D. Shaffer are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Other attorneys are not board certified.  Principal office is located in Houston, Texas.