Shreveport Oil Refinery Sued by Texas Trucker who Survived being Covered in Molten Asphalt

Darrell Allen was working at an oil refinery operated by Calumet Specialty Products Partners in Shreveport, Louisiana when he was covered and surrounded by liquid asphalt, causing him to suffer third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body. Mr. Allen was treated at LSU – Shreveport. His doctor, who has thirty years experience treating burn victims, had never seen a person burned as badly as Mr. Allen survive.

The lawsuit alleges negligence against the refinery, including an alleged failure to clean water from the hose being used in the transfer of the hot asphalt to a tanker truck. According to the lawsuit, when the asphalt and the water came into contact, “the liquid hot asphalt vaporized the water which acted as a source of ignition to cause the asphalt to expand and explode out of the top of the tanker.”

According to Calumet’s statement regarding Allen’s injuries, the company is coordinating with its insurance company to address Allen’s demands, and they’ve implemented additional safety precautions at the Shreveport refinery.

For more details about this incident, click here.

Critics Concerned Snapchat “Speed Filter” Adds to Dangers of Distracted Driving

Snapchat, a unique social media app, allows a user to take pictures and videos which are sent to Snapchat friends. The images are available for viewing for about 10 seconds before they’re gone forever. Some argue that Snapchat images demand more concentration.

The “Speed Filter” is a feature of the app that records the speed that the user is driving at the time that she takes a photo. Critics assert the “speed filter” poses the greatest danger to drivers not only for the distraction but also the potential for speeding, thus increasing the risks of a serious motor vehicle accident on our roadways.

Other features of Snapchat that cause concerns for drivers include the Stories auto advance feature, which can cause a driver to be distracted for up to a minute, attempting to capture a “perfect moment” of just a few seconds over and over again, and the face-timing feature’s requirement that you look at the phone while driving.

For more on the dangers of Snapchat and driving, click here.

Texas Supreme Court Rejects SIBs Settlement

On June 24, 2016, the Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion in Cause No. 15-0025, Texas Department of Ins., Division of Workers’ Compensation v. Bonnie Jones and American Home Assurance Co.

Bonnie Jones was injured in 2005 in the course and scope of employment. She received medical and income benefits through her workers’ compensation insurance carrier, American Home Assurance Company. Questions arose regarding her entitlement to certain Supplemental Income Benefits (“SIBs”). At a Contested Case Hearing, the Hearing Officer found that Jones had not made the requisite work searches to qualify for her fourteenth quarter of SIBs. Jones exercised her right to appeal, and a settlement for partial SIBs in the amount of $1,572.90 was reached between Ms. Jones and American Home. The Division of Workers’ Compensation intervened, and appealed the settlement.

The Texas Supreme Court determined the settlement did not comply with the Texas Labor Code, noting that “a court cannot approve of a settlement that declares the worker ‘partially’ eligible for SIBs during a given quarter.”

New Report Critical of “Opt Out” Alternative to Workers’ Compensation

A new study from the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions provides an independent assessment of an emerging “opt out” alternative to workers’ comp.

Historically, Texas has been the only state to offer employers the option to either purchase a workers compensation insurance policy for its employees, or choose instead to “opt out,” known as non-subscriber status in Texas. While the employee may retain the right to file suit for her employer’s negligence, Texas does not have any minimum requirements for the injury benefit plan, if any, an employer may provide.

Recent legislation in Oklahoma has attempted to convert to this “opt out” option for employers to implement their own workplace injury plans. The new study from the association focused on Oklahoma, and looked at proposed legislation in Tennessee and South Carolina.

Although the report acknowledged that benefits from generous employers could exceed existing workers’ compensation insurance policy benefits, it also found little or no state or federal oversight, fewer state-mandated benefits and extensive employer control “[afford] the darker possibility of minimal statutory benefits, stringent claims determinations, and a dispute process that seems unfair to claimants.”

For more on this growing debate to allow employers to “opt out” of workers’ compensation insurance, click here.