On March 30, 2011, the Texas Court of Appeals, Third District, at Austin, ruled against Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich) and found that an injured employee’s wife was entitled to his benefits for an on-the-job injury. The Appeals court’s ruling affirmed the findings of both the 33rd District Court of Burnet County and the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC).
The employee in this case had been killed in a car accident on the job. Zurich had denied death benefits to the injured employee’s wife by stating he was not actually working when he was killed, even though his accident occurred while in a company car and in route to a mandatory company meeting. Zurich’s position went against the Texas labor code and rules, as well as the established decisions of DWC.
Even after winning his case before DWC, Zurich sued the employee’s wife in civil court to try to get the case overturned again. As the lower court ruled, and the appeals court correctly confirmed, the injury did occur on the job and the employee’s family should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, this case also shows the lengths to which insurance companies will go, including suing surviving widows, to avoid paying claims that should not be disputed in the first place.